National roundup: Ariz. firefighters were near safe zone; New York warns of blessing scam

July 5, 2013
ARIZONA
Doomed firefighters were near safe zone

An erratic wildfire driven by ferocious and shifting winds curled around the location of a team of Arizona Hotshot firefighters, cutting off their access to a safety zone and creating a death trap that quickly consumed them, two fire officials confirmed Friday, based on a map of the how the tragedy unfolded compiled by the Associated Press.

The map shows that the 19 highly trained firefighters were about a quarter-mile northwest of the safety zone using chain saws, axes and other tools to build a line between the fire and the small town of Yarnell on Sunday. The fire suddenly changed directions after the winds shifted nearly 180 degrees, and the flames cut off their access to the safety zone, a large ranch property.

The AP confirmed the location of the fire crew, their safety zone and the fire’s advance based on interviews with people who knew what happened. After building the map, its accuracy was confirmed by Dan Ware, a spokesman for the crews battling the blaze, and Wade Ward, spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department, to which the Hotshot crew belonged.

The circumstances of the firefighters’ deaths have been known for days, but Friday’s confirmation offers the most detailed picture about their location and how close to safety they appeared to be.

— Associated Press

New York
Police warn of thefts via blessing scam

One woman was told by a fortune teller that her son was possessed by demons. Another was approached on a street in New York’s Chinatown by a stranger who eerily claimed her daughter would die in two days.

In each instance, the women bundled up cash and jewelry in a bag and gave it to strangers they’d just met — self-
proclaimed spiritual healers. The women were told the contents would be blessed in an effort to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck to the family or heal a sick child; they just had to wait a period of time to re-open it.

When they did, they found water bottles, cough drops and beans. But no valuables.

Detectives in New York say there has been a rash of what’s known as an evil spirit or blessing scam, where older immigrant women, mostly Chinese, are swindled out of their valuables by scammers who exploit superstition and fear. In the past six months, two dozen victims have reported a total of more than $1.8 million in valuables stolen, police say.

— Associated Press

Missouri
Governor vetoesGOP gun measure

Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed legislation Friday that would have made it a crime for federal agents to try to enforce federal gun laws in Missouri and could have landed journalists in jail for publishing the names of gun owners in the state.

Nixon said the bill, passed by the Republican-led legislature, violated the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which gives preference to federal laws over conflicting state ones. He said it also infringed on the First Amendment right of free speech.

— Associated Press

Abortion bill signed: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed a contentious Republican bill Friday that would require women seeking abortions to under­go an ultrasound and ban doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures.

Miss USA ruling upheld: A federal judge in New York has upheld an arbitrator’s ruling that a Pennsylvania beauty queen must pay the Miss USA pageant $5 million for defaming Donald Trump’s pageant organization. Sheena Monnin resigned as Miss Pennsylvania last year, saying the Miss USA contest was rigged.

— From news services

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