US test fires SM-6 interceptor, practices ‘smart defense’ with allies off Scotland

US test fires SM-6 interceptor, practices ‘smart defense’ with allies off Scotland
The US has test-fired one of its most advanced missile interceptors, the Standard Missile-6, off the Scottish coast. It comes amid the Formidable Shield drills conducted in the region to defend against the potential ballistic threat from “rogue states.”

“US Navy sailors aboard USS ‘McFaul’ (DDG 74) successfully test fired a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6),” the Sixth Fleet said in a statement, stressing that the test was not part of the Formidable Shield drills.

The test supervised by the US Missile Defense Agency“demonstrated the successful performance of an SM-6 launched from an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense capable DDG and was conducted as part of the system’s flight certification process,” the statement added.

Raytheon’s SM-6 missile is designed to intercept ballistic projectiles descending towards targets from the upper atmosphere at extreme speeds. It can be deployed at land-based Aegis Ashore launching installations or at Aegis-equipped warships. According to the manufacturer, it is the “only missile” which can be used in anti-air and anti-surface warfare, while maintaining its use for “sea-based terminal ballistic missile defense.”

That means the missile could be used to counter the rising threat from the North Korean nuclear and missile programs, as Pyongyang continues to rapidly advance its ballistic missile technology.

Sunday’s test was conducted following the latest stage of the Formidable Shield drills, where the US and its allies practiced “live-fire integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) scenario” which focused on defending against a “ballistic missile target as well as three anti-ship cruise missiles.”

Approximately 3,300 servicemen from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK are participating in the US-led drills on the Western Isles of Scotland.

More than 14 ships and 10 aircraft are also taken part in the drills.

During Sunday’s session of the ongoing naval maneuvering, the US Navy boasted about demonstrating what it called a “smart defense” concept, where naval vessels served as “air defense units protecting naval ballistic missile defense units.”

Part of the exercise involved USS ‘Donald Cook’ successfully detecting, tracking and intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile target using the Standard Missile-3 Block IB guided missile.

While the US Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was busy intercepting its target, Spanish frigate fired an Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) against an incoming anti-ship cruise missile.

Simultaneously, a Dutch frigate fired ESSMs against a pair of incoming anti-ship cruise missiles, the US Navy said.

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NLD Air Defence and Command Frigate HNLMS De Ruyter detects & tracks ballistic missile in space during US led exercise  17

”Both the joint exercise and the Navy test launch truly demonstrate the capabilities the US and our allies are developing to defeat complex, cruise and ballistic missile threats,” said US Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves.

“The exercise scenarios are designed to test our limits and give us a unique opportunity to truly practice how we would fight together as an alliance,” added Capt. Shanti Sethi, commander, Task Group IAMD for Formidable Shield.

Formidable Shield 2017 began September 24, and is scheduled to conclude October 18. At the start of the US-led Formidable Shield exercise, London made it clear that NATO and its allies are perfecting their means of tackling the North Korean threat.

“North Korean tests have shown the danger of rogue states developing longer-range missiles. By hosting this cutting-edge exercise in anti-missile defense with allied navies Britain is at the forefront of developing a more effective response to this growing threat,” UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on September 24.

North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on September 3, forcing the UN Security Council to introduce new sanctions. The UN actions, however, did not stop Pyongyang from launching a series of ballistic missiles later in September, while vowing to destroy the US and its allies with nuclear weapons if attacked.

With Pyongyang and Washington whipping up tensions, Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly called on both parties to remain calm. Russia and China have called for the implementation of the so-called “double freeze” initiative that envisages North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile program in exchange for the US and South Korea abandoning their military exercises in the region. The initiative has been rejected by Washington

Courtesy: RT

Trump, McConnell set for tense talks at Monday meeting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set to sit down with President Donald Trump Monday in a White House meeting that could help patch their relationship, which fractured in a big way over the summer, when the two leaders took shots at each other over health care reform and the effectiveness of Congress.

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Back in August, Trump said he was “very disappointed in Mitch,” after McConnell said Trump had “excessive expectations” about the legislative process.

The meeting comes as conservative groups demand McConnell step down from his leadership role.

“We call on all five members of the GOP Senate leadership to step down, or for their caucus to remove them as soon as possible,” Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia who now leads the Senate Conservatives Fund, said Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

McConnell “will join the President and Vice President for a working lunch where they will discuss the fall agenda which includes completing the budget resolution, passing tax reform to help American families and workers, confirming well-qualified judicial and other nominees, and continuing to provide resources to communities affected by the recent hurricanes,” the Senate GOP leader’s spokesman David Popp told Fox News.

Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to Trump, said Saturday in a speech to religious conservatives that he’s committed to dumping McConnell.

Bannon put on notice some of those incumbents who are at risk of a challenge from his flank of the party. He said lawmakers possibly can avoid that wrath if they disavow McConnell and meet other conditions.

“This is our war,” Bannon said. “The establishment started it. … You all are gonna finish it.”

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2017, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Congressional leaders and administration officials in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Trump and McConnell are scheduled to meet Monday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In this Sept. 5, 2017 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Congressional leaders and administration officials in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “Mitch McConnell’s not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes and we have yet to do it.”

The senator added: “If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell’s fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble. We lose our majority and I think President Trump will not get reelected.”

Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate from Maine who was a critical “no” vote on health care, said Bannon’s rhetoric is what Americans are tired of.

“They don’t want this hyperpartisanship. They want us to work together. And they want us to get things done,” she said.

Collins added that “over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful. Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader. The president needs him. I’m glad they’re working together on tax reform and a lot of other issues. And I’m glad they’re meeting this week.”

In August, Trump tweeted blame for failure to repeal ObamaCare on McConnell, saying, “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!”

McConnell responded to Trump’s Twitter barrage by saying the challenges of governing shouldn’t be a surprise.

“A lot of people look at all that and find it frustrating, messy. Well, welcome to the democratic process. That’s the way it is in our country,” McConnell said at a GOP event in Kentucky this summer.

Meanwhile, the senators’ weeklong recess also drew criticism from the White House.

“They’re on another vacation right now. I think that we would all be a lot better off if the Senate would stop taking vacations, and start staying here until we actually get some real things accomplished,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Recently, a McConnell-backed political committee spent millions and Trump endorsed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in a recent primary election, but Bannon-backed Roy Moore prevailed. Moore, a former judge, has defied federal court orders, described Islam as a false religion and called homosexuality evil.

Senate Republicans had been upbeat about adding to their 52-48 edge in the chamber, especially with Democrats defending more seats next year —  10 in states Trump won in last year’s presidential election. But the Bannon challenge could cost them, leaving incumbents on the losing end in primaries or GOP candidates roughed up for the general election.

“If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace ObamaCare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it. So this is a symptom of a greater problem,” Graham said.

He added that Bannon “can’t beat us if we’re successful. And if we’re not successful, it doesn’t matter who tries to beat us, they’ll be successful.”

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy: Fox News

Steve Bannon recruiting rabble-rousers to take on GOP establishment

When Steve Bannon left the Trump administration in August, he said he could do more to shake up Washington from outside the White House than from inside.

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Now, it looks as if Bannon’s plan is coming together.

Bannon has been recruiting and promoting challengers to GOP incumbents and the party’s preferred candidates in next year’s midterm elections.

It’s an insurgency that could give Washington the jolt it needs to end years of stagnation and gridlock — and get the U.S. moving again.

But it could also imperil Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

The emerging Bannon class of rabble-rousers share limited ideological ties but have a common intent to upend Washington and knock out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., standard-bearer of the establishment.

It’s a crop of candidates that unnerves a GOP that lost seats — and a shot at the Senate majority — in 2010 and 2012 with political novices and controversial nominees and fears a stinging repeat in 2018.

“The main thing that binds them together is a rejection of the Republican Party establishment, a rejection of the political elites, the financial elites and the media elites,” said Andy Surabian, a former Bannon aide and senior adviser to the pro-Trump PAC Great America Alliance.

“The main thing that binds them together is a rejection of the Republican Party establishment, a rejection of the political elites, the financial elites and the media elites.”

– Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump political action committee

Bannon helped elevate twice-suspended Judge Roy Moore, who won an Alabama runoff over McConnell’s pick, Sen. Luther Strange.

Moore was removed from office for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama’s judicial building and then suspended for insisting probate judges refuse same-sex couples marriage licenses.

Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in a December election where polls show a single-digit lead for the Republican, a remarkable development in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ heavily GOP state.

“We don’t have leadership. We have followership,” Moore said Friday at the Values Voter Summit where he argued for scrapping the health care law with no replacement.

In West Virginia, the grassroots conservative group Tea Party Express endorsed Patrick Morrissey, also a Great America Alliance choice, over establishment favorite Rep. Evan Jenkins in a competitive race to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Senate Republicans had been upbeat about adding to their 52-48 majority, especially with Democrats defending more seats in 2018, including 10 in states Trump won in last year’s presidential election. But the Bannon challenge could cost them, leaving incumbents on the losing end in primaries or GOP candidates roughed up for the general election.

Consider Mississippi, where state Sen. Chris McDaniel lost to veteran Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014, but is weighing a bid next year against Roger Wicker, the state’s other senator in the national legislature.

McDaniel misdefined “mamacita,” the Spanish word for mommy as “hot mama,” and said he would withhold his tax payments if the government paid reparations for slavery. He also was forced to denounce a supporter who photographed and posted an image of Cochran’s bed-ridden wife.

He argued in court that his 2014 loss was due in part to African Americans fraudulently voting in the primary. He’s back again and speaking in Bannon terms.

“They will do anything, they will say anything, to just maintain a hold on power,” McDaniel said in an Associated Press interview about McConnell and his allies.

He’s already envisioning the theme of a challenge against Wicker.

“On one side, a liberty-minded, constitutional conservative. On the other side, Wicker and McConnell,” he said.

In Arizona, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Trump antagonist Sen. Jeff Flake, remains known for entertaining the debunked theory that jet aircraft are used to intentionally affect the weather or poison people.

In 2015, she gave conflicting answers about her beliefs after holding a public hearing she said was to answer constituents’ questions. But John McCain used it to marginalize her in his winning GOP Senate primary against her, and McConnell reprised it in August in a web ad which referred to her as “chemtrail Kelli.”

Former New York Rep. Michael Grimm, who spent eight months in prison for federal tax evasion, is challenging two-term Rep. Dan Donovan — with the encouragement of Bannon.

In announcing his candidacy, Grimm was apologetic for his conviction. Still out there are viral videos of him famously telling a television reporter during an on-camera interview at the U.S. Capitol after a question he didn’t like: “You ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this (expletive) balcony.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is sticking with the incumbent: “I support Dan Donovan, plain and simple,” Ryan said this week.

But he stopped short of suggesting Bannon stand down. “It’s a free country,” he said.

In Nevada, Bannon is encouraging Republican Danny Tarkanian in his challenge to GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Tarkanian, son of famed basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, is zero-for-five in state and federal elections.

These outsiders share strong opposition to increasing the nation’s debt even if it means an economy-rattling default and unsparing criticism of congressional Republicans, especially McConnell, for failing to dismantle the Obama-era health care law, an unfulfilled seven-year-old promise.

In Wyoming, Erik Prince, founder of security contractor Blackwater, is considering a Republican primary challenge to Sen. John Barrasso, a senior member of the Senate GOP leadership team. Bannon has urged Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to run.

Bannon has given at least one Senate incumbent — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — a pass, but others are in his cross-hairs.

“Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them,” Bannon said during a Fox News interview Wednesday. “And we’re going to win.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Courtesy: Fox News

JFK, CIA, Mafia and Fidel Castro – Trump can finally allow the truth to emerge from the shadows

John Lee
John Lee is the political editor and columnist at the Mail on Sunday (Ireland edition). He has covered Irish, British, US, European and Australian politics for over 20 years for a number of titles, including the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph (Australia).
JFK, CIA, Mafia and Fidel Castro - Trump can finally allow the truth to emerge from the shadows
Top secret files are due to be declassified this month in a move that could bring closure to one of the most traumatic events in US history – the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

A law was signed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 mandating the release of all documents related to Kennedy’s assassination within 25 years. Under the JFK Records Act of 1992, the National Archives has until 26 October of this year to disclose the remaining files relating to the assassination, unless President Trump determines that doing so would be harmful to national security. There are about 3,100 files still sealed by the National Archives.

Most right-thinking people would like to see the files released, to put an end to the constant speculation about the death of one of history’s most iconic politicians.

There is a smaller group, who enjoy vast, outlandish, unproven mysteries that would like to see the files remain locked up. This would allow the morbid supposition to continue.

Was there a conspiracy to kill the US President in 1963? No verifiable proof has been produced to contradict the official version of what happened on 22 November 1963, that lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy, who was in an open top limousine, from a window of the Dallas Book Depository building. Oswald was a US Marines trained marksman, but still, it was some deadly shooting with a $21 mail-order rifle.

On 24 November, live on TV, police led Oswald through the basement of the Dallas Police Station. A large man with a fedora steps forward and shoots a single bullet into Oswald, and we hear the dying man shout in pain.

Of course, it is possible Jack Ruby was a madman who was overtaken by patriotic vengefulness. The fact that Ruby, a nightclub owner, had mob connections and police contacts shot an assassin so publicly immediately raised incredulity.

The Warren Commission was set up in the wake of the Dallas events by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate. Wanting to quickly calm a nation that was entering a period of unprecedented upheaval the commission promptly decided to ratify the lone gunman theory.

However, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978 concluded in a preliminary report that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime. The findings of both investigations have been contested.

It would require a vast conspiracy to cover-up the involvement of other parties.

The Kennedys were at the center of a web of bizarre and extra-legal alliances in the early sixties. The Cold War was in its fifteenth year by the time John Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Morbid fear of imminent nuclear war and congressional star chambers driven by the alcoholic Joe McCarthy (a close family friend of the Kennedys) had pushed the US establishment to a deep paranoia.

John Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic to be elected to the high office, and he ran his administration like any good Irish boy should – it was a family business. Brother Bobby was installed at the Justice Department. The two glamorous Democratic poster boys were, in fact, hardnosed Cold War warriors and rabid anti-Communists. Communist leader Fidel Castro had, in 1959, installed his regime in Cuba, 90 miles off Florida and the Kennedys immediately set about removing him, by any means necessary.

The plotting began with the Dwight Eisenhower government almost immediately after the 1959 revolution. In 1961, Cuban exiles, with the backing of Kennedy and the US government, tried to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs debacle. The plan was to assassinate Fidel and Raúl Castro along with Che Guevara. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, an agent was sent on a mission to kill Castro.

Yet the plotting against Castro was carried out under four US presidents, and only Kennedy was murdered.

Previously released CIA files show the Agency was, incredibly, in league with the Mafia in plotting some of the 600 attempts on Castro’s life.

One file even indicates Robert Kennedy saying he was “angry” when he found out. But he didn’t call a halt to this unholy alliance.

Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana, who was later shot dead, was one of those gangsters involved in the Cuba plots. There were alleged connections between the Kennedy brothers’ father Joseph P Kennedy and mobsters including the notorious psychopath Giancana. Giancana also sharing mistress, Judith Exner, with JFK. Giancana and JFK shared a friendship with the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. I could go on, but I am already digressing significantly.

Tranche of  assassination records includes testimony from KGB defector http://on.rt.com/8imf 

Photo published for Tranche of JFK assassination records includes testimony from KGB defector — RT America

Tranche of JFK assassination records includes testimony from KGB defector — RT America

Nearly 4,000 previously withheld or censored documents about the 1963 assassination of US President John F. Kennedy have been released by the National Archives in Washington DC.

rt.com

And that is the point, when you start on the Kennedys and all the dark enemies and glamorous friends and work through in the long, ghastly history of the CIA’s foreign conspiracies you will never get to an end. It is an endlessly fascinating cocktail of sex, death, politics, show business and Cold War espionage. Such narratives sold books and movies.

Yet another question that has been asked by historians is was there a cover-up?

And some things have emerged over the last couple of years that are extraordinary.

These facts are verifiable, and they heighten the anticipation of the potential 26 October file declassification. The usually secretive Central Intelligence Agency has, incredibly, conceded that there is a problem.

In 2013, the CIA’s in-house historian concluded that the spy agency had conducted a cover-up during the Warren Commission’s investigation in 1963 and 1964. The CIA hoped to keep the commission focused on “what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’ — that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.

The secret report was written in 2013 and quietly declassified in 2014. The spy agency’s historian acknowledges what others were already convinced of: that the former CIA Director John McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission when it began its post-JFK assassination investigation.

According to the report by CIA historian David Robarge, McCone, who died in 1991, was at the heart of a “benign cover-up” at the spy agency, intended to keep the commission focused on the lone gunman theory.

Specifically, McCone withheld from the commission the existence of the CIA and Mafia plots to assassinate Castro. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

And in August of this year, a further tranche of previously classified documents was released under the 1992 Bush law. And they too were tantalizing.

The files released by the National Archives show that, within a few years of Kennedy’s assassination, some in the CIA began to worry internally that the official story was wrong.

Key CIA officials were concerned by the mid-1970s that the Agency, the FBI, the Secret Service and the commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren had not followed up on important clues about Oswald’s contact with foreign agents, including diplomats and spies for the Communist governments of Cuba and the Soviet Union, who might have been aware of his plans to kill Kennedy and even encouraged the plot.

There is no credible evidence cited in the documents released so far that Castro or other foreign leaders had any personal role in ordering Kennedy’s death.

But if the CIA is saying it believes there was a cover-up, and it thought this as early as the 1970s then those expecting something explosive to emerge this month could be right.

Of course, as always, politics are at play.

Republican President Donald Trump is being asked to open up a file on the murder of a dead Democratic President. And not just any President, but John Kennedy, the young, tragic, handsome leader whose family became the royalty of US politics.

Republicans may believe the Kennedys’ swimming in murky waters will come to taint their legacy.

I believe the American public needs to know the truth,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who along with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is leading a congressional effort to declassify thousands of documents and recordings compiled by the CIA and FBI.

It’s still hard for me to believe it was one man, but at the same time I have no proof that it wasn’t,” said Jones.

Trump, if the argument is compelling enough from the CIA and FBI, may still keep the files secret. But many of us want it to end, one way or another.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Corker hits Trump for his ‘castration’ of Secretary of State Tillerson

Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who has been trading barbs with the president, is now hitting President Trump for his “castration” of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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The Tennessee Republican told the Washington Post that it’s the “castration” of Tillerson “that I am most exercised about.”

Corker said Trump undermined Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts with repeated public statements denigrating the secretary of state.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee said such comments will lead to a situation where Trump will only have a “binary choice” of war or a North Korea and Iran that could threaten the United States with nuclear weapons.

“You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice,” Corker told the Washington Post.

TRUMP SLAMS CORKER, WHO CALLS WHITE HOUSE ‘ADULT DAY CARE CENTER’

Trump last week told reporters he wished Tillerson would be “tougher.”

“You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state”

– Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee

“We have a very good relationship,” Trump told reporters. “We disagree on a couple of things. Sometimes I’d like him to be a little bit tougher. But other than that, we have a very good relationship.”

Trump also told reporters recently that he and Tillerson have “a little bit of a different attitude on North Korea than other people might have” but “ultimately my attitude is the one that matters.”

Speaking last month in China, which wants Washington to resume a full dialogue with Pyongyang, Tillerson fueled speculation of a new diplomatic effort, acknowledging open channels of communications between the two countries.

But then Trump appeared to undermine his efforts.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted, once again deploying his pet name for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

Corker’s comments follow a week of the Republican, who recently announced he won’t run for re-election, ramping up his criticism of the president.

After the president accused Corker of lacking the guts to run for re-election last weekend, Corker responded: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtesy: Fox News

California couple hid in pool as deadly wildfires swallowed everything around them

As a deadly wildfire devoured everything around them, a California couple had to think fast – or risk certain death.

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Jan Pascoe, 65, and her husband, John, 70, were trapped in their Santa Rosa home and watched as their serene hillside view became an ominous “wall of fire,” Los Angeles Times reported.

As they desperately searched for shelter, they recalled the neighbor’s pool.

Jan called 911 and told the dispatcher she and John would be in the pool and asked officials to search for them.

“We were in survival mode,” Jan said. “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

The couple debated jumping into the frigid, murky pool. Then a nearby tree caught on fire.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES KILL AT LEAST 31, DEADLIEST WEEK FOR FIRES IN STATE HISTORY

“The heat was ‘whoa,’” John Pascoe said. He told the Los Angeles Times he stripped down to a t-shirt and he told Jan to “jump in now.”

In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, smoke rises from fires in Santa Rosa, Calif. Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday, Oct. 12, could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. (Derek Anderson via AP)

The devastating wildfires are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history.  (AP)

Jan entered the debris-filled water wearing pajama bottoms and a tank top. The two placed shirts over their face to avoid the embers.

The couple remained in the 4-foot-deep pool for six hours until the fire subsided.

“I just kept going under,” Jan said, “and I kept saying, ‘How long does it take for a house to burn down?’ We were freezing.”

A wildfire burns along the Highway 29 Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, near Calistoga, Calif. Officials say progress is being made in some of the largest wildfires burning in Northern California but that the death toll is almost sure to surge. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The couple held each other in the cold water of the pool for six hours until the fire blew away.  (AP)

The couple kept warm by holding one another and telling each other how much they loved each other.

The couple had tried to evacuate just after their daughter, Zoe Giraudo, told them her father-in-law’s residence about 40 miles away burned down. She urged them to leave the house. The couple tried to drive but the fire blocked them from leaving.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE BURNS HOME OF ‘PEANUTS’ CREATOR CHARLES SCHULZ

The Pascoe’s house and cars burned down. Their cat is missing. But they say they are lucky to be alive.

Giraudo and her sister Mia, 32, told the Los Angeles Times that she was worried her parents were dead after not hearing from them. When they got word that their parents were alive, they broke out into tears.

“I started screaming,” Zoe said. “The first thing mom said to me was ‘I feel so bad I wasn’t able to get ahold of you.’ ‘You’re apologizing to me? After all you’ve been through?’”

The wildfires, which broke out Sunday in Sonoma County, have killed at least 31 people.

Courtesy: Fox News

Wineries coping with California wildfires as death toll reaches 31

Wineries coping with California wildfires as death toll reaches 31
Officials have warned throughout the week that conditions in Northern California would worsen due to wildfires, with the death toll reaching 31 so far. Meanwhile, the state’s famous wine country in Sonoma and the Napa Valley is being seriously threatened.

On Thursday, 22 fires continued to rampage across California’s northern region, KCRA reported.

Over 8,000 firefighters are now fighting the flames, and the wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 building and homes, totaling over 170,000 acres. They have also displaced some 25,000 people.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said recovery teams with cadaver dogs had been searching what’s left of some people’s homes in the county.

“We have found bodies that were completely intact, and we have found bodies that were no more than ash and bone,” he said, BBC News reported.

“We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Mark Ghilarducci, the state director of emergency services said to reporters, according to BBC News.

On top of the loss of life, and destruction to property, the fires in Napa and Sonoma County could also prove devastating to the state’s wineries and grape crops.

The wine industry got lucky with warm weather in Napa and Sonoma in the late summer and early fall, due to the heat contributing to the ripening process. This, in turn, brought along an earlier-than-usual harvest. But this year, only 10 to 30 percent of the grape crop currently remains on the vine, which is less than usual for the early days of October, the Orange County Register reported.

Even if the grapes make it through the flames unscathed, some of those grapes will be useless for the production of wine due to, what is called ‘smoke taint’. This term is used to describe the the process in which smoke severely damages the flavor of the crop, and would be noticeable when tasting the wine.

“In really bad cases, it can really have the taste of an ashtray,” Anita oberholster, a professor of viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis said, according to CNBC.

The fires are said to be so severe that not a single part of wine country will be unaffected. Vineyards miles away from the flames could succumb to the smoke.

“The smoke taint thing will be global — both valleys,” Alex Andrawes, a wine broker in Texas, and owner of PersonalWine.com, said, Fortune reported. “No pockets spared, I fear.”

Wine writer, marketer and winery co-owner Julie Ann Kodmur commented on the wildfires from her home in Napa County.

READ MORE: Satellite images show devastating extent of California wildfires (PHOTOS)

“We are living through an unbelievable thing right now, from the air heavy [and] thick with ashes to the point you almost can’t see a block ahead of you, to all of the devastation,” she said, according to the Register.

Kodmur commented that her town in Napa has not been hit by the fires, but she worries very much about the wineries nearby.

“[My] concern is for Smith-Madrone,” she said, speaking about her family’s winery. “There are two fires in different places which could conceivably head that way. Stu and Charlie [Smith, brothers and the winery’s co-founders] are doing everything they can do to prepare.”

The wine institute estimates that California is the world’s fourth-largest producer of wine. And in 2015, the wine industry employed around 325,000 people statewide, while taking in more than $57 billion in economic activity. This includes $7.2 billion in income related to tourism, according to the Register.

Courtesy: RT
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