Sunday, June 2, 2013

Published:

3 veteran storm chasers killed while pursuing storm as it swept into Oklahoma City area

Three veteran storm chasers died doing what they loved: roaming the Great Plains in search of dangerous storms like the one in Oklahoma that ended their final pursuit.

Tim Samaras, his son Paul and colleague Carl Young died Friday night when an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph turned on them near El Reno, Okla. After years of sharing dramatic videos with television viewers and weather researchers, they died chasing a storm that killed 13 in Oklahoma City and its suburbs.

"It's something we've done countless times in the past and have done it successfully and safely," said Tony Laubauch, who was working with Tim Samaras' chase team Friday night. "And, you know, whatever happened on this one, it's just horrible beyond words."

The men's deaths in pursuit of the storm are believed to be the first among scientific researchers while chasing tornadoes, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said.

"They put themselves in harm's way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms," said Chris West, the undersheriff in Canadian County, where the men died.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. PURSUIT PROVES FATAL FOR STORMCHASERS

Tim Samaras, son Paul and colleague Carl Young, killed in Oklahoma, are believed to be first scientific researchers to die in tornado.

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Severe storms move through east, south; tornado in SC; Oklahoma death toll up to 13

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Damaging winds flattened trees and utility wires and knocked out power in parts of northern New England on Sunday, flights were delayed in New York City and a tornado touched down in South Carolina as the East Coast weathered the remnants of violent storms that claimed 13 lives in Oklahoma.

Heavy rain, thunderstorms, high winds and hail moved through sections of the Northeast on Sunday afternoon, knocking out power to more than 40,000 in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The National Weather Service issued a rare tornado warning as a line of thunderstorms raced through New Hampshire into western Maine. The weather service said a tornado warning was issued as radar indicated a possible tornado moving from Kingfield, Maine, to Bingham, Maine. The tornado was not immediately confirmed.

In northwestern South Carolina, a tornado knocked a home off its foundation and blew part of the roof off, said Taylor Jones, director of emergency management for Anderson County. Some trees were blown down and there was heavy rain, but no widespread damage. No injuries were reported.

"It was an isolated incident," Jones said.

The weather service said thunderstorms and winds in excess of 60 mph in Vermont produced 1-inch-diameter hail and knocked down numerous trees and wires. In northern Maine, radar picked up a line of thunderstorms capable of producing quarter-sized hail and winds stronger than 70 mph. Forecasters warned of tornadoes.

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Nearly 3,000 people evacuated as crews fight California wildfire; 6 homes destroyed

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) -- A wildfire that destroyed at least six homes, damaged 15 others and threatened hundreds more grew quickly Sunday as it triggered evacuations for nearly 3,000 people and burned dangerously close to communities in the parched mountains north of Los Angeles.

The blaze had burned about 35 square miles of very dry brush in the Angeles National Forest mountains and canyons, some of which hadn't burned since 1929. The fire was growing so fast, and the smoke was so thick, that it was difficult to map the size, U.S. Forest Service Incident Commander Norm Walker said.

"This is extremely old, dry fuel," Walker said at an afternoon news conference.

The fire, which was 20 percent contained, appeared to be the fiercest of several burning in the West, including two in New Mexico, where thick smoke covered several communities and set a blanket of haze over Santa Fe on Saturday. Crews fighting the two uncontained wildfires focused Sunday on building protection lines around them amid anticipation that a forecast of storms could bring moisture to help reduce the intensity of the fires.

The fire raging in Southern California had crews fighting the fire on four fronts, with the flames spreading quickest northward into unoccupied land, authorities said. But populated areas about 50 miles north of downtown LA remained in danger, with more than 2,800 people and 700 homes under evacuation orders in the communities of Lake Hughes and Lake Elizabeth, sheriff's Lt. David Coleman said.

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US congressmen find few clues to the Boston bombings in Russia despite help from Steven Seagal

MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of a U.S. congressional delegation said Sunday that its meetings in Russia showed there was "nothing specific" that could have helped prevent the Boston Marathon bombings, but that the two countries need to work more closely on joint security threats.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who led the six-member delegation, described discussions with Russian parliament members and security officials as productive. Some of the meetings, he said, were made possible by American actor Steven Seagal.

Seagal, who attended the news conference in the U.S. Embassy, is well connected in Russia. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, and last week paid a visit to Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who rules Chechnya, a province in southern Russia that has seen two brutal wars between federal troops and Chechen separatists since 1994.

Those wars spawned an Islamic insurgency that spread across the Caucasus region, including to neighboring Dagestan, now the center of the violence. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is accused of carrying out the Boston bombings with his younger brother, spent six months in Dagestan last year. Investigators have been trying to determine whether he had contacts with the militants there.

Rep. Steve King said Russian security officials told the delegation they believed that Tsarnaev and his mother had been radicalized before moving to the United States in 2003. "I suspect he was raised to do what he did," said King, a Republican from Iowa.

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Turkey's Erdogan rejects 'dictator' claim as anti-government protests pick up again

ISTANBUL (AP) -- Turkey's prime minister on Sunday rejected claims that he is a "dictator," dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe, even as thousands returned to the landmark Istanbul square that has become the site of the fiercest anti-government outburst in years.

Over the past three days, protesters around the country have unleashed pent-up resentment against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who after 10 years in office many Turks see as an uncompromising figure with undue influence in every part of life.

A huge, exuberant protest in Taksim Square subsided overnight, but an estimated 10,000 people again streamed into the area on Sunday, many waving flags, chanting "victory, victory, victory" and calling on Erdogan's government to resign.

About 7,000 people took part in protests in Ankara, the capital, that turned violent on Sunday, with demonstrators throwing fire bombs and police firing tear gas. Scores of protesters were detained.

Some protesters have compared Erdogan to a sultan and denounced him as a dictator. Scrambling to show he was unbowed and appealing to a large base of conservative Turks who support him, Erdogan delivered two speeches on Sunday and appeared in a television interview.

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House panel: Treasury investigators find IRS spent $50M for 220 conferences from 2010 to 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government watchdog has found that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $50 million to hold at least 220 conferences for employees between 2010 and 2012, a House committee said Sunday.

The chairman of that committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also released excerpts of congressional investigators' interviews with employees of the IRS office in Cincinnati. Issa said the interviews indicated the employees were directed by Washington to subject tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status to tough scrutiny.

The closest the excerpts came to direct evidence that Washington had ordered the screening was one employee saying that "all my direction" came from an official who the excerpt said was in Washington. The top Democrat on that panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, contested Issa's claim, saying none of the employees interviewed have so far identified any IRS officials in Washington as ordering that targeting.

The conference spending included $4 million for an August 2010 gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for which the agency did not negotiate lower room rates, even though that is standard government practice, according to a statement by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Instead, some of the 2,600 attendees received benefits, including baseball tickets and stays in presidential suites that normally cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night. In addition, 15 outside speakers were paid a total of $135,000 in fees, with one paid $17,000 to talk about "leadership through art," the House committee said.

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Egyptian court ruling on legislature adds new twist to nation's long list of problems

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's highest court ruled on Sunday that the nation's interim parliament was illegally elected, though it stopped short of dissolving the chamber immediately, in a decision likely to fuel the tensions between the ruling Islamists and the judiciary.

The Supreme Constitutional Court also ruled that a 100-member panel that drafted the new constitution was illegally elected.

The immediate impact of the ruling is limited. The Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, called the Shura Council, will remain in place until elections are held for a lower house, likely early next year. The constitution, which was ratified in a nationwide referendum in December with a relatively low turnout of around 35 percent, will also remain in effect.

Still, the opposition said the verdict shows how Islamists' victories at the ballot box are tainted. They argued that the ruling further challenges the legitimacy of the disputed constitution, which was pushed through the panel by Islamists allied to President Mohammed Morsi.

The two sides are squaring off for what may be a major confrontation on the streets by the end of this month.

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In first public appearance since mastectomy news, Jolie joins Pitt at 'World War Z' premiere

LONDON (AP) -- Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stepped out together Sunday at the premiere of zombie thriller "World War Z" -- Jolie's first public appearance since announcing last month that she had undergone a double mastectomy.

The couple said they had been moved by the outpouring of public support that followed Jolie's disclosure.

Jolie told reporters she felt great, and had "been very happy to see the discussion about women's health expanded" by her announcement.

"And after losing my mom to these issues, I'm very grateful for it, and I've been very moved by the kind of support from people," she said.

Jolie revealed last month in an op-ed piece for The New York Times that she had had her breasts removed after discovering she has an inherited genetic mutation that puts her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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Yankees fan says he's 111 years old during a ballpark visit, but there's no proof of his age

NEW YORK (AP) -- A baseball fan who says he's 111 years old and was saluted by the New York Yankees on the field this weekend has no proof of his age.

Bernando LaPallo chatted with Yankees star Derek Jeter before Saturday night's game against Boston. The Arizona resident playfully calls himself the Yankees' oldest fan.

But a consultant with Guinness World Records who specializes in validating the ages of older people said public records show LaPallo was born in 1910, not on Aug. 17, 1901.

"Many extreme age claims in the past have turned out to be false," researcher Robert Young told The Associated Press in an email Sunday.

Young also is the senior database administrator for the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a list of verified age claims of supercentenarians -- people who are at least 110.