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October 30, 2019

The Getty Fire that has destroyed at least a dozen structures in west Los Angeles and caused thousands of evacuations was sparked by a eucalyptus tree branch that fell on power lines early Monday morning, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday.

The power lines are operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the agency's general manager, Marty Adams, said brush was cleared in the area in July. Garcetti told reporters the branch came from outside of that space, and the incident was "an act of God." As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire was only 15 percent contained.

The National Weather Service's office in Oxnard, California, issued an "extreme red flag" warning on Tuesday, an alert so serious that meteorologists told the Los Angeles Times they can't recall ever using the term before. Starting on Tuesday night, Los Angeles is expected to experience 30 hours of high winds, with isolated wind gusts of up to 80 mph. This would be the worst wind to hit in more than a decade, and if it knocked down power lines, it could be disastrous in these dry conditions. Catherine Garcia

August 8, 2019

On Thursday afternoon, officials in the northern Russia city of Severodvinsk detected a brief rise in radiation levels following an explosion at a military training ground, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

Kseniya Yudina, a spokeswoman for Severodvinsk, said the "brief rise of the radiation level was registered...at about noon." The Ministry of Defense said at least two people were killed and four seriously hurt when a liquid rocket engine exploded; regional authorities told state news agency RIA-Novosti that two people died and 15 were injured.

The incident took place in the Arkhangelsk region, 18 miles away from Severodvinsk, and the regional governor said there was no reason to evacuate anyone from the area, CNN reports. There is a naval base and shipyard in Severodvinsk, and TASS says the incident began on a ship. Catherine Garcia

July 21, 2019

Authorities in Costa Rica are sounding the alarm about tainted alcohol.

Since the beginning of June, at least 19 people — 14 men and five women — have died in the country after ingesting alcohol with toxic levels of methanol, Costa Rica's National Health Ministry said. The victims were between the ages of 32 and 72.

Methanol poisoning can cause dizziness, headaches, confusion, and drowsiness, and is often linked to counterfeit alcohol. The Costa Rican government has confiscated approximately 30,000 bottles of alcohol believed to have been tainted. Catherine Garcia

July 1, 2019

Facebook announced on Monday that four buildings on its property in Menlo Park, California, had to be evacuated after workers at its mailing facility possibly encountered the toxic nerve agent sarin.

Two people at the facility have been medically evaluated, and do not show symptoms of sarin exposure, CNN reports. Menlo Park Fire Marshal Jon Johnston said a mail scanning machine tested positive for sarin, but it could have been a false positive. Developed in 1938, sarin has no color, taste, or odor, and can evaporate from a liquid to gas.

Facebook said it is "conducting a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities. As of now, three of the evacuated buildings have been cleared for repopulation." Catherine Garcia

June 18, 2019

Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks were stunned when they discovered that permafrost in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted.

"What we saw was amazing," Prof. Vladimir E. Romanovsky told Reuters. "It's an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years." The scientists made their last expedition in 2016, visiting a remote location only accessible by propeller plane, and couldn't believe what they saw — there were depressions and ponds and lots of vegetation, a completely different scene from what they saw during their first trip a decade earlier.

Unusually hot summers triggered the thaw, and it is likely other areas of the Canadian Arctic are also affected; the scientists are preparing to expand their study. When permafrost thaws at a fast rate, large amounts of heat-trapping gasses are released into the atmosphere, and that concerns scientists, as this will make global temperatures rise even faster. "Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown and it's happening before our eyes," Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan told Reuters. "The premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonize our economies, and immediately." Catherine Garcia

May 27, 2019

An attorney from Colorado died Monday after summiting Mount Everest, becoming the 11th person to die there this climbing season.

Christopher John Kulish, 62, died suddenly after reaching the top of Everest on the Nepalese side of the mountain, CNN reports. Experts say the mountain is dangerously overcrowded and the Nepalese government is giving away too many permits; last week, climbers were stuck in a long line above 26,000 feet, waiting for their turn to reach the top. This is an area known as "the death zone," mountain guide Adrian Ballinger told CNN. Even with bottled and supplemental oxygen, people can only last a few hours there before their bodies start to shut down. "Humans just aren't really meant to exist there," he said.

Veteran mountaineers also say more and more amateur climbers are trying to tackle Mount Everest, and companies that don't understand the peak are organizing treks. "Everest is primarily a very complicated logistical puzzle, and I think when you have a lot of inexperienced operators as well as inexperienced climbers along with, particularly, the Nepal government not putting some limitations on the numbers of people, you have a prime recipe for these sorts of situations happening," climber David Morton told CNN. Catherine Garcia

March 28, 2019

President Trump went to Puerto Rico in October 2017 to see the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. While there, he ranted and raved about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even talking about using the nuclear option against the country, three people who were with him told CNN Thursday.

Trump was obviously distracted, they said, and he pointed to the "nuclear football," the briefcase that can be used to authorize a nuclear attack, declaring: "This is what I have for Kim." At the time, Trump was still tweeting barbs at Kim, but since then, the pair have met twice, and Trump now says he likes Kim and they have a warm relationship.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló would not discuss the remark with CNN on Thursday, only saying, "There were other topics that were being discussed, and my view is that the sole focus of that trip should have been on Puerto Rico." Several media outlets have reported Trump has been privately complaining about the amount of aid going to Puerto Rico, which still has not fully recovered from the 2017 hurricane. In public, though, Trump is patting himself on the back, telling reporters on Thursday that "Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being, and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand." Catherine Garcia

March 22, 2019

A nine-year-old girl who is a U.S. citizen says she was "scared" and "completely by myself" while being detained at the border for more than 30 hours.

Thelma Galaxia told NBC San Diego that her two children, 9-year-old Julia Isabel Amparo Medina and 14-year-old Oscar Amparo Medina, were on Monday being driven to school from Tijuana to San Diego by her friend, who told them to walk across the border after being worried that heavy traffic would make them late to school.

But the children were reportedly then detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and not reunited with their mother for more than 30 hours. Galaxia says officers told her daughter she didn't look like her passport picture, which was taken when she was younger. They reportedly accused her of lying about her identity and told her she would be released to her mother if she told them she was really her cousin.

Galaxia also says officers made her son sign a document identifying his sister as his cousin. "He was told that he would be taken to jail and they were going to charge him for human trafficking and sex trafficking," she said. The two were finally released when Galaxia called the Mexican consulate after being informed her children had been detained.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told NBC San Diego that the young girl gave them "inconsistent info" and that they detained her so they could "perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship," but they did not explain why this took more than a full day. Read more at NBC San Diego. Brendan Morrow

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