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National

    A famous Tennessee treehouse is no more. >> Read more trending news  The Minister’s Treehouse in Crossville burned to the ground in just minutes Tuesday, shortly after Cumberland County firefighters arrived on the scene, according to the Crossville Chronicle. The newspaper reported that the entire structure quickly collapsed after the fire started just before 10:30 p.m. The structure was billed as the world’s largest treehouse, according to local media outlets.It was some 100 feet tall and was supported by seven trees, WBIR-TV reported. Although recently sold to a new owner, who said he planned to keep it, it was vacant and the repeated target of vandals. It was shut down in 2011 with tours of the structure ending after the fire marshal deemed it unsafe.
  • A man is accused of stealing $241,000 while he was the general manager of the McDonald's in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Charles Hobi allegedly stole the money all within a couple of months, according to the criminal complaint.  The owner of the restaurant told police he was reviewing his bank records in January when he noticed a large amount of money was missing. After asking his bank for a list of deposits made over the course of a few months, he found that there were daily deposits from McDonald's that were never made, according to the complaint. The owner reviewed surveillance footage and saw Hobi pocketing daily receipts.  >> Read more trending news The owner than approached Hobi, who did not deny stealing the money, according to police. Police said Hodi also told them he had a gambling addiction. A criminal complaint said that he 'gambled it away' with intentions of paying it back. The owner immediately fired Hobi from his position.  Hobi turned himself in to district attorney's detectives Tuesday. He was arraigned and put in jail with bail set at $5,000. Hobi posted bond Wednesday and will be released. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 31. 
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reversing course months after threatening six-figure fines against immigrants taking sanctuary at churches. Seven women have been notified that ICE, using its discretion, is withdrawing its intent to pursue fines ranging from $300,000 and $500,000 for their refusal to leave the country as ordered, according to the National Sanctuary Collective, a coalition of attorneys, organizers and other advocates for them. They count it as a victory. 'We knew that these exorbitant fines were illegal and were nothing more than a tool to scare our clients and retaliate against them for fighting back and standing up to this administration,' attorney Lizbeth Mateo, who represents a Mexican woman living at an Ohio church, said in a statement. Mateo said immigration officials should exercise the same discretion 'to release sanctuary families.' The immigrants have remained in the U.S. in violation of the law and still are subject to removal orders that ICE will enforce 'using any and all available means,' agency spokesman Richard Rocha said in an email. He said ICE also could reassess the fines. Immigrants have sought relief from deportation at houses of worship because immigration officials consider them 'sensitive locations' and avoid enforcement action at such sites. Maria Chavalan-Sut, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, seeking asylum moved into a United Methodist church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Another woman has lived in sanctuary with her 11-year-old son in Austin, Texas, for more than two years. Mateo's client, Edith Espinal, has stayed at a Columbus church for the past two years. She was notified in June that she faced a fine of nearly $500,000. In a statement, she said ICE's reversal on the fines is 'an example of what speaking out and organizing can accomplish.' The agency said it issued a total of nine notifications in June about its intent to pursue fines. It said Wednesday that eight of those have been withdrawn, and one still is being pursued. It didn't identify those cases or name the immigrants involved. The six-figure penalties were another reminder of how President Donald Trump has made cracking down immigration - legal and illegal - a top domestic priority. Immigrants who are free on bond but ordered to leave the country are typically given a date to report to immigration authorities for removal. Others are ordered to check in with authorities, which, under former President Barack Obama-era policies, generally didn't result in deportation unless the person was convicted of a serious crime in the United States. Trump lifted those restrictions almost immediately, causing people to get deported when they reported to ICE offices as instructed and discouraging others from coming. __ Associated Press Writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
  • A teenage gunman and the boy he shot just outside a Northern California high school are affiliated with street gangs and were involved in an ongoing dispute, authorities said Wednesday. Santa Rosa police located the 17-year-old shooter's .32 caliber revolver Tuesday night discarded in some bushes about 3½ miles (5.6 kilometers) from Ridgway High School, authorities said. The gun had four rounds of ammunition and two spent cartridges; it was stolen in 2016 in a residential burglary in Santa Rosa, police said. The 16-year-old victim was shot twice and released from a hospital Tuesday night, Capt. John Cregan told The Associated Press. He would not identify the gangs. The gunman and the victim argued Tuesday morning outside of the high school, where both are students, as part of an ongoing dispute, he said. The gunman opened fire, triggering a lockdown for thousands of students and staff in three schools before police tracked him to a gym class nearly two hours later. 'The investigation has shown this was an isolated incident of violence following a verbal altercation,' the statement said. 'There is no evidence to suggest the suspect planned any other acts of violence against additional students.' The suspect has been booked into juvenile lockup on suspicion of attempted murder but has not yet been formally charged, Cregan said. His name was not released because of his age. Cregan said it's not known if the shooter stole the revolver in 2016 but he said it's likely he bought it illegally on the street. The suspect put the gun into his backpack after the shooting and handed the bag to someone in a vehicle who drove away. Investigators are still trying to determine if the driver knew there was a gun in the backpack. The shooter then went into a nearby classroom, following lockdown protocol, and behaved normally as detectives tracked his path through surveillance footage. Ridgway High School, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) north of San Francisco, is an alternative continuation school for Santa Rosa High.
  • An attorney for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio urged an appeals court Wednesday to erase the lawman's now-pardoned criminal conviction so it can't be raised against him in any future court cases. The former six-term sheriff from metro Phoenix is appealing a ruling that refused to expunge his conviction for disobeying a 2011 court order barring his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. The 2017 ruling said pardons don't erase convictions or the facts of cases and that President Donald Trump's pardon of Arpaio only removed his possible punishments. Judge Daniel Collins, one of the three judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who heard Arpaio's appeal in San Francisco, said the pardon caused Arpaio's case to be dismissed and that the criminal charge can't be refiled. 'What more do you want?' Collins asked. Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik said the judges should clarify that the conviction doesn't have any legal consequences on his client. 'This is a matter of judicial housekeeping,' Wilenchik said. Special prosecutor Christopher Caldwell urged the judges to reject Arpaio's arguments, saying the there are no legal consequences from the now-pardoned conviction and that U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton didn't abuse her judicial powers when she refused to erase the conviction. 'We believe Judge Bolton's order properly preserved the power of executive branch to pardon a criminal defendant while avoiding punishment for the conduct,' said Caldwell, who was appointed to the case by the appeals court after the U.S. Justice Department refused to defend Bolton's ruling. Arpaio's lawyers had previously told the appeals court that the lawman was deprived of his opportunity to appeal his conviction because the pardon came before he was sentenced and final judgment was entered, so the conviction must be erased. Caldwell had argued in the past that Arpaio gave up his right to appeal the conviction when he accepted the August 2017 pardon — and that if the former sheriff wanted to challenge the conviction, he should have rejected the clemency and taken his chances in the appeals court. Lawyers for the Justice Department won the conviction against Arpaio, but once the pardon was issued, the agency sided with Arpaio in arguing that the conviction should be expunged because he was pardoned before the conviction became final. Arpaio, who didn't attend Wednesday's hearing, has acknowledged continuing his immigration patrols but insisted his disobedience wasn't intentional. He was accused of prolonging his immigration patrols for 17 months to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign. In finding Arpaio guilty in July 2017, Bolton cited TV interviews and a news release in which Arpaio made comments about keeping up his patrols, even though he knew they were no longer allowed. Arpaio's defiance of the court order is believed to have contributed to his 2016 election loss. The 87-year-old lawman is now seeking the Republican nomination to run for sheriff next year. His first political comeback attempt ended when he placed third in the 2018 U.S. Senate primary. Even if the pardon hadn't been issued, the misdemeanor conviction wouldn't have prevented him from running for office again. ___ Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.
  • A McDonald's customer was caught on surveillance video getting into a fight with a manager that included thrown food and a blender being thrown at her head. WLWT reported Britany Price ordered some Happy Meals from the McDonald's in Colerain Township, Ohio on Sept. 22. >> Read more trending news  According to the local station, Price placed an order at the drive-thru. She went into the restaurant when she discovered her order was wrong. She came into the restaurant with the order and waited for it to be fixed, the video showed.  After killing time by refilling her drinks, video footage shows Price throwing food at the manager, who then threw a blender at Price's head, knocking her to the ground. Price told WLWT she broke her nose and shattered her cheekbone in the incident. 'I've had surgery,' Price said. 'I've had a lot of doctor's appointments, the follow-up. Hard mornings. Hard afternoons.' The manager has not publicly spoken about the incident. “We can confirm that this individual is no longer employed by our organization,' McDonald's told WLWT of the manager.
  • The Latest on planned power shutoffs to prevent wildfires (all times local): 3:10 p.m. Authorities say power outages have started in Northern California after the state's largest utility said it was planning a widespread blackout due to wildfire danger. The Santa Rosa Fire Department tweeted that shutoffs had started in Santa Rosa around 3 p.m. Wednesday and it was getting multiple reports of outages. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said earlier Wednesday it would start precautionary power shutoffs in the afternoon affecting nearly 180,000 homes and businesses — roughly a half million people — in portions of 17 counties, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The utility has said the outages will last about 48 hours. ___ 2 p.m. Southern California Edison is warning it could cut power to 308,000 customers in seven counties to prevent winds from damaging electrical equipment and starting wildfires. The utility nearly doubled its estimate of the number of homes and businesses that might lose electricity as a pre-emptive measure. Earlier in the day, Edison said a possible outage Thursday affect about 160,000 people. Red flag warnings for severe fire danger are expected later Wednesday and will likely last through Friday evening for much of greater Los Angeles. Forecasters predict peak wind gusts of 55 mph (89 kph). To the north, Pacific Gas & Electric says it's going forward Wednesday with blackouts that could affect 450,000 people in 17 counties of Northern California. The shutoffs are expected in the Sierra Foothills, followed by blackouts north of the San Francisco Bay Area. ___ 1:45 p.m. A Northern California elected official critical of the way Pacific Gas & Electric handled a power shut-off two weeks ago says the utility is sharing more information in preparation for another outage planned to begin Wednesday. Still, Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore says he can't believe wide sections of California's wine country need shutting down in this modern age. He's also astonished the utility did not do test runs or upgrade its equipment in the year it has had to prepare for pre-emptive shut-offs aimed at preventing wildfires. PG&E is cutting power to 450,000 people in Northern California amid forecasts of dry, gusty winds. ___ 10:15 a.m. Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it is proceeding with planned power shutoffs that will affect nearly 180,000 customers throughout portions of Northern California. The utility says the shutoffs affecting about 450,000 people are expected to begin around 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Sierra Foothills, followed soon after by blackouts north of the San Francisco Bay Area. In all, the power will be cut to portions of 17 counties. PG&E says the shutoffs are needed to prevent wildfires caused by downed or fouled power lines as the National Weather Service forecasts gusty winds amid hot, dry weather. Meanwhile, Southern California Edison says it could cut power Thursday to more than 160,000 customers in six counties and San Diego Gas & Electric is warning of power shutoffs to about 24,000 customers. ___ 12 a.m.: Pacific Gas & Electric will decide Wednesday whether to black out some half-million customers as dangerous fire weather returns to California. PG&E says it could begin precautionary power shutoffs as early as Wednesday afternoon to about 189,000 homes and businesses in portions of 16 counties, mostly in the Sierra foothills and north of the San Francisco Bay Area. The utility says the outages will last about 48 hours. A blackout two weeks ago affected about 2 million people in northern and central California. PG&E says both shutoffs were aimed at preventing wildfires caused by downed or fouled power lines. The danger is from gusty winds in the midst of hot, dry weather. Meanwhile, Southern California Edison says it could cut power Thursday to about 132,000 customers in six counties — around 300,000 people.
  • Driven almost to extinction in the 20 the century, the South Atlantic humpback whale population has significantly rebounded. >> Read more trending news The whale’s numbers are now estimated to be around 25,000, which is about 93% of its historical population, according to a new study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. Researchers believe the whales numbered about 27,000 in 1830, but through hunting and exploitation, they were reduced to around 450 by the mid-1950s.  In the 1960s, they became a protected species, and all 14 humpback species were listed as endangered by 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, then under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  By the 1980s, the International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium on all commercial whaling, helping populations recover. Four out of the 14 distinct populations of humpback whales are still currently protected as endangered, and one is listed as threatened, NOAA reported. Humpbacks are found in oceans around the world and travel long distances every year, with some populations traveling 5,000 miles from tropical breeding grounds to colder areas for feeding. They feast of krill and small fish by opening their huge mouths and filtering huge amounts of ocean water. Scientists said continued monitoring of the whales is needed to understand how they respond to modern threats and the impact of climate change on their habitat.
  • President Donald Trump said Wednesday in 'a major breakthrough' he is lifting all sanctions against Turkey. >> Read more trending news  The sanctions were imposed last week. Turkey will stop combat and the ceasefire will be permanent, the President said. 'We have saved the lives of many, many Kurds,' Trump said. 'We've done something that is very, very special.' Trump said Turkey and Syria must keep the peace.  'It's their neighborhood. They need to take care of it,' Trump said. 'Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.' The president said a small number of troops would remain in Syria to protect oil interests. Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted there was 'Big success on the Turkey/Syria border.' 'Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended,' Trump tweeted. Turkey and Russia reached an agreement Tuesday, installing their forces along the border of northeast Syria after U.S. troops that were withdrawn from the area, The Associated Press reported. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Sochi, Russia, and revealed a 10-point memorandum about Syria, CNN reported. According to the memorandum, Turkish military and Russian military police will patrol the border. The United States was not included in the negotiations.
  • A Missouri man recently fired from his job at Arby’s for allegedly setting fires returned Saturday to the restaurant, where police allege he mutilated and decapitated a cat in the men’s restroom. Tanner Maggard, 19, of Lee’s Summit, is charged with second-degree animal abuse and second-degree property damage, according to online Jackson County court records. The animal abuse charge, which involves abuse by torture and/or mutilation while the animal was alive, is a felony. >> Read more trending news  WDAF in Kansas City obtained the court documents, including police reports that allege Maggard went to Arby’s on Saturday and placed an order before going into the restroom. When he came out, the records show, he asked the manager, “Oh, I see you remodeled the bathroom, huh?” Maggard went back into the restroom a short time later and was still in there when the manager went in to clean it. The manager told police he could hear Maggard in a stall, coughing and gagging. The manager left the restroom, followed by Maggard a short time later. Maggard went outside, the court documents say, according to WDAF. When the manager returned to finish his cleaning, he found a mutilated and decapitated cat on the diaper changing table in the stall where Maggard had been, the news station reported. Blood covered the walls, door and toilet. The manager told officers he went outside, where he spotted Maggard sitting in his truck, waiting to see his former boss’ reaction to the scene he had left behind, the court documents allege. Maggard then drove away. The records show that responding officers who processed the scene in the restroom did not detect the odor of decomposition, which indicated that the cat was recently killed, WDAF reported. Maggard repeatedly denied knowledge of the cat’s demise when questioned by detectives, the news station said. The restaurant did not have security cameras in place.  The restaurant had to replace the changing table and toilet in the stall and repaint the walls, the documents say. Online court records show Maggard was booked into the Jackson County Jail with bail set at $10,000. Maggard appeared to have bonded out as of Wednesday, according to jail records. Maggard is not allowed within 1,000 feet of the Arby’s. He is also not allowed to have contact with domesticated animals, the records show.