WILDFIRES IN TEXAS, CALIFORNIA: A massive wildfire has destroyed 476 homes in central Texas and forced the evacuation of at least 5,000 people. Fueled by drought conditions and wind gusts from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, the Bastrop County Complex fire east of Austin stretched for 16 miles on Monday. Despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, the blaze is currently zero percent contained, officials said.
“The thing that’s scary about this one is it’s moving so quickly and it’s jumped highways and rivers,” Julie Hart, a Bastrop City Council member and B&B owner, told The Los Angeles Times. “No one’s sure where it’s going to go. The winds are 20 to 30 mph and everywhere you look, there’s smoke.”
Since the traditional fire season began earlier in the year, firefighters have battled nearly 21,000 wildfires in Texas. Sixty separate fires continue to burn across the state. On Monday, the Bastrop fire prompted Gov. Rick Perry to leave South Carolina, where he was campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, and return to his home state to visit with fire survivors and appeal for federal aid.
In California, a wildfire burning just south of Tehachapi continued to grow. The Canyon fire started Sunday morning when a small plane crashed, killing the two occupants. Since then, it has destroyed 27 homes and outbuildings and blackened more than 8,600 acres of grass and woodlands. Last night, firefighting crews managed to contain about 10 percent of the blaze, though 650 residences are still threatened. Smaller fires were reported near North Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles, in the Agua Dulce area, in the Verdugo Mountains, on Vinevalley Drive near Sun Valley and near North Canyonback Road in the Santa Monica Mountains. (Sources: Reuters and The Austin American-Statesman and The Blotter and BBC News and AP and The Los Angeles Times)
STANDOFF IN AUSTRALIA: After more than 11 hours of negotiations, police raided an office building in western Sydney and arrested a 52-year-old man who was holding his daughter hostage.
According to a woman who worked at the reception desk in the Parramatta building, the hostage-taker approached her and asked to see someone she had never heard of. He then threw a book on her desk and ordered her to call the the state attorney-general’s department. “Tell them I’ve got a bomb in my backpack,” he said. She called police as he and a girl who called him “Dad” walked upstairs to a lawyer’s office.
Authorities spent all day negotiating with the suspect, who made several demands. During the tense siege, he appeared at a window, shirtless and wearing a barrister’s wig, and gestured to the growing crowd of onlookers. He later smashed the window with a bottle and shouted to police: “I don’t care if I die.”
TALAS SLAMS INTO JAPAN: The death toll from Typhoon Talas, which swept across western Japan over the weekend, climbed to 37. More than 50 others have been reported missing, authorities said. Search and rescue teams have launched operations in Wakayama, where mudslides swallowed several homes and a river flooded into a residential area. (Sources: Voice of America and CNN)
LEE BATTERS THE SOUTH: At least 100 homes were damaged by thunderstorms and possible tornadoes in suburban Atlanta on Monday as the slow-moving remnants of Tropical Storm Lee headed inland. Lee dumped up to a foot of rain on the Gulf Coast and Southeast over the weekend, flooding numerous roads and causing more than 200,000 to lose power. According to the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, flash flood watches and warnings remain in effect from the Appalachians to New England. (Sources: Reuters and AP and The Weather Channel)
MISSING EXPLOSIVES RECOVERED: The explosives, which disappeared during a routine police training session last week at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, were found on Monday. Police had placed the explosives in Terminal 4 to train police dogs, but they were stolen by an “unknown individual.” A passing motorist later discovered the two half-pound orange-colored tubes set inside a blue Igloo cooler on a sidewalk in south Phoenix. He recognized the container from news reports, and called the authorities. (Sources: AP and The Arizona Republic)
HURRICANE KATIA DOWNGRADED: Hurricane Katia weakened to a Category 3 storm today as it churned above the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane, which briefly hit Category 4 status overnight, is located about 400 miles south of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds near 125 mph. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect Katia to veer northeast away from the U.S., but that could change over the next few days. (Sources: The Weather Channel and AP)
MDA TELETHON RAISES MILLIONS: Despite a weak economy and numerous natural disasters, the 46th annual Labor Day telethon managed to raise more than $61 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In 2010, the telethon raised $58.9 million to help the organization fight against progressive muscle diseases. This year’s event lacked the presence of comedian Jerry Lewis, who hosted the telethon for 45 years before retiring in May. Although he had planned to make a final appearance at the telethon, those plans were scrapped last month without explanation. (Sources: Reuters and MDA News)
RECORD-BREAKING EARS: Harbor will receive the 2012 title for “longest ears on a living dog” today from the Guinness World Records. The 8-year-old coonhound from Boulder, Colo., has over two feet of ears; his left is 12.25 inches long and his right is 13.5 inches long. The former record-holder — an Illinois bloodhound named Tigger — died in 2009. Tigger still holds the record for longest ears ever; one was 13.5 inches long and the other was 13.75 inches long. (Sources: The Denver Post and Guinness World Records)
VIDEO OF THE DAY
TODAY’S POLL: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently proposed that a significant boost in teacher salaries could transform public schools for the better by luring the country’s brightest college graduates into the profession.
THURSDAY’S POLL: More than 50 California cities and counties ban Styrofoam take-out containers commonly used in restaurants and grocery stores. Now a bill is being pushed through the legislature to make the ban state-wide.
Sept. 6 is National Coffee Ice Cream Day, National Fight Procrastination Day and Read a Book Day.
TODAY IN HISTORY
In 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot and fatally wounded President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. McKinley died eight days later; Czolgosz was executed in October of that same year.
In 1949, Howard Unruh became the first U.S. single-episode mass murderer when he killed 13 neighbors in Camden, N.J.
In 1972, nine Israel athletes and a German police officer were killed at the Munich Olympic Games by the Palestinian “Black September” terrorist group. Two other Israeli athletes were slain in the initial attack the previous day.
BIRTHDAYS* Rapper Foxy Brown, 33.
* Actor Idris Elba, 39.
* Actor Dylan Bruno, 39.
* Author China Mieville, 39.
* Singer Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries), 40.
* Singer Macy Gray, 44.
* Singer William DuVall (Alice in Chains), 44.
* Actress Rosie Perez, 47.
* Author Alice Sebold, 48.
* Journalist Elizabeth Vargas, 49.
* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 49.
* Musician Scott Travis (Judas Priest), 50.
* Actor/comedian Michael Winslow, 53.
* Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, 53.
* Business executive Carly Fiorina, 57.
* Actress Swoosie Kurtz, 67.
* Singer Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), 68.
* Singer David Allan Coe, 72.
* Author Robert M. Pirsig, 83.
* Sex educator/nurse Margaret Sanger died in 1966 of heart failure. She was 86.
* Director Akira Kurosawa died in 1998 of a stroke. He was 88.
* Author Madeleine L’Engle died in 2007. Cause of death was not released. She was 88.
* Operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti died in 2007 of pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
Full Moon Night. (Photo by Luiz A. Villa.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” –President John F. Kennedy