Pot-laced candy catches fire

Police say a pot advocacy company's RV carrying marijuana-laced candy burst into flames on a bridge that connects New Jersey and Delaware, causing lane closures and tying up traffic for hours.

Weed World Candies tells WCAU-TV more than $50,000 in merchandise was destroyed Sunday evening when one of its vehicles heading to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. caught fire on the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Passing motorists captured the blaze on video .

The company uses tour vehicles to sell marijuana-laced lollipops and promote the legalization and decriminalization of pot.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze. No injuries were reported.

The Delaware River and Bay Authority tells NJ.com all northbound lanes were closed for about a half-hour. Two lanes were still closed three hours later.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately clear.


Malta plane crash kills 5

A small plane heading toward Libya's coast to monitor migrant trafficking routes for the French government crashed soon after takeoff from Malta's airport Monday, killing all five French crew members, authorities said.

The twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner banked to the right and slammed into the ground in a huge fireball soon after lifting off at 7:20 a.m., according to video of the moment captured by a dashboard videocam and posted on Facebook.

The French defence ministry said the victims — three defence ministry officials and two private contractors — had been conducting a surveillance operation. Malta's government said the flight was part of a French Customs operation tracing routes of illicit trafficking, both of humans and drugs, leaving Libya's lawless coasts.

Libya is the main point of departure for the tens of thousands of migrants who have been paying smugglers to bring them toward Europe by boat.

Earlier, authorities had said the flight was headed to Misrata, Libya; the Maltese government said later that the aircraft was due to return to Malta within a few hours without landing elsewhere.

Malta's International Airport is used for surveillance flights to Libya due to its proximity. The government said the French surveillance operation has been active for about five months.

The airport was closed for four hours while debris was cleared, delaying more than a dozen flights, according to a notice on the airport website.

The Metroliner was registered in the U.S. and leased to a Luxembourg company, CAE Aviation group, which supplied the two contractors who were killed.

Tour bus crash kills 13

A tour bus returning home to Los Angeles from a casino trip plowed into the back of a semi-truck on a California highway early Sunday, killing 13 people and injuring 31 others, authorities said.

A maintenance crew had slowed down traffic on Interstate 10 before the vehicles crashed just north of the desert resort town of Palm Springs, California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele said. The work had gone on for hours without problems, he said.

Abele said the bus carrying 44 passengers was going much faster than the truck, though a trauma surgeon said the injuries he saw indicated it was slowing down at the point of impact.

"The speed of bus was so significant that the trailer itself entered about 15 feet into the bus," Abele told reporters. "You can see it was a substantial impact."

It was not known if alcohol, drugs or fatigue played a role in the crash about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, but the bus was inspected in April and had no mechanical issues, Abele said. The bus driver was killed, and the truck driver received minor injuries.

The bus was coming from Red Earth Casino in the unincorporated community of Thermal and was about 35 miles into its 135-mile trip back to Los Angeles.

CHP officers had been slowing traffic to allow Southern California Edison workers to string wires across the freeway, Abele said.

Passengers told officials that most people were asleep when the crash occurred at 5:17 a.m. Abele said it appeared the 1996 bus didn't have seat belts and likely didn't have a black box that newer vehicles feature.

Before April, the bus also was inspected in 2014 and 2015, the CHP said. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show it had no crashes in the two years before Oct. 22 and had a satisfactory safety rating.

Heartfelt tribute to Murray

In an evening filled with jokes about Bill Murray's elusiveness and quirky personality, it was David Letterman who provided the most touching moment as Murray was honoured with the nation's top prize for comedy.

Murray, 66, received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night at the Kennedy Center, joining several other "Saturday Night Live" alumni to win the annual award. After he was presented with a bust of Mark Twain, Murray handed it to a man in the first row of the audience and urged the crowd to pass it around.

Known for living outside the Hollywood bubble, Murray admitted he was uncomfortable sitting in a box with his family while more than a dozen of his co-stars and collaborators spoke warmly about his body of work.

"It's really hard to listen to all those people be nice to you for two days," Murray said. "You just get real suspicious."

His acceptance speech followed a heartfelt tribute by the bearded Letterman, who made a rare public appearance since his late-night show ended last June. Murray was a guest on Letterman's shows 44 times over the years, and the two grew close, even spending time together at Letterman's vacation home in Montana.

After an appearance in 2003, Letterman told Murray that his then-infant son would be christened that weekend. An hour later, Letterman said, a package was delivered to his office containing a handmade Irish linen christening gown.

"That Saturday, my son, in Bill Murray's christening gown, was christened at St. Ignatius in Manhattan, and we have this memory, we have this gift, we have this gesture for the rest of our lives," Letterman said.

There were plenty of laughs at Murray's expense in evening that took on the tone of a gentle roast. Jimmy Kimmel, Aziz Ansari, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin were among those who ribbed Murray for being aloof, unpredictable and difficult to reach — and somehow still lovable.

"I think you and I are about as close as two people can be, considering that one of them is you," Martin said in a video tribute.

After getting his break on "Saturday Night Live," Murray went on to star in some of the most successful comedies of the 1980s and 1990s before transitioning into more dramatic roles. He was nominated for an Oscar for his soulful turn as a washed-up actor in Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation."

He's become a folk hero in the social-media era by turning up unannounced at wedding receptions, kickball games and house parties. He's also a regular at Chicago Cubs games and celebrity golf tournaments.

This weekend, he got to meet President Barack Obama. And what did the two men talk about? "Putting," Murray said before the show.

Trade deadline looming

If Belgium cannot break a deadlock over the European Union's landmark free deal with Canada by Monday night, EU leaders will consider cancelling a signing ceremony scheduled for later in the week, sources said Sunday.

Two officials with knowledge of the negotiations said that EU leaders plan to have telephone talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about cancelling the Thursday summit if Belgium's support for the deal isn't secured by the deadline.

The officials asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The deal needs unanimity among the 28 EU nations, and Belgium needs unanimity among its regions. The francophone region of Wallonia, population 3.5 million, has been the lone holdout and refused to approve the trade pact.

During the past week, Belgium missed two earlier deadlines and Canada briefly walked out of the trade talks before returning the next day.

Yet, if Trudeau is expected to sign at an official summit on Thursday, precious little time is left. Without the guarantee the EU is ready to finalize the deal, there would be no reason to have the summit, an EU official said.

The Belgian region of Wallonia has stood in the way of the CETA accord, short for Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The deal between over 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians would eliminate almost all tariffs.

Politicians in Wallonia, which is smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey, argue that the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies. They have vowed to thwart a pact that the world's biggest trading bloc and Canada are eager to secure.

New attempts were made to sway Wallonia leader Paul Magnette to sign on over the weekend.

Magnette said Wallonia still saw "some small difficulties." A better deal would bolster EU standards and set a strong precedent for future trade talks between Europe and its trading partners, he said.

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland walked away from the talks Friday on the verge of tears, saying the EU appeared incapable of signing the deal. Yet, she came back for some discussions on Saturday.

EU leaders have warned that failure to clinch the deal with Canada could ruin the bloc's credibility as a trade partner and make it more difficult to strike such agreements with the United States, Japan and other allies.

A similar free trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and the United States is facing far more opposition than the Canada pact. Progress on the American deal appears unlikely until a new U.S. president takes office in January.

Candidate owes millions

Jim Justice, a coal billionaire running for West Virginia governor, owes millions in back taxes to some of Appalachia's most impoverished counties, including one in Kentucky that is struggling to pay the debt on a new rec centre and has turned the lights off in its parks and reduced hot meals for senior citizens.

Many of these counties have been devastated by the collapse of the coal industry over the past few years, and their financial struggles are not all Justice's fault. But county officials say things would be a lot easier if he paid up.

"It's just absurd that a billionaire wouldn't pay his taxes," fellow Democrat Zach Weinberg, the top elected official in Kentucky's Knott County, said as he thumbed through a folder of Justice's debts.

Justice, who is leading in the polls, makes no apologies for the debt owed by some of his coal companies, saying he is doing everything he can to keep his businesses running and workers employed while other companies go under.

One of the biggest chunks of money owed is in Knott County, where Justice has unpaid taxes of $2.3 million dating to tax year 2014. That's a substantial hole, given the county government's $10 million budget and its separate $23 million school budget.

Justice has other unpaid tax bills scattered across the hills and hollows of eastern Kentucky: $1.2 million in Pike County, $500,000 in Floyd County, $228,300 in Magoffin County and $167,600 in Harlan County, according to county officials.

He also has millions in West Virginia state tax liens against his companies. Because of privacy laws, the state won't say whether he is paying them back.

The Associated Press has reported previously on Justice's debts to coal suppliers and contractors, and a recent National Public Radio report compiled a list of Justice company debts, including back taxes and mine safety fines totalling $15 million

Tour bus crash kills 7


A tour bus and a semi-truck crashed on a highway in Southern California early Sunday, killing at least seven people and injuring at least 30 others, some critically, the California Highway Patrol said.

CHP Officer Stephanie Hamilton confirmed the deaths to the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs as of 7:30 a.m. Firefighters also removed additional bodies, using ladders to climb into the bus' windows, the newspaper reported.

Photos show the front of the passenger bus crumpled entirely into the semi-truck's trailer after the wreck on Interstate 10 in Desert Hot Springs, near the desert resort town of Palm Springs. Responders used tow trucks to lift the trailer to provide easier access to the bus, whose front end was demolished.

At least 30 victims have been taken to hospitals. Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs received 14 patients: five in critical condition, three in serious condition and six with minor injuries, hospital marketing director Rich Ramhoff said.

Eleven people with minor injuries were sent to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, spokesperson Lee Rice said. JFK Memorial Medical Center in Indio received five patients, all with minor injuries, chief development officer Linda Evans said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. The bus may have been coming from Red Earth Casino, near the Salton Sea, the CHP said. Hamilton said the driver was one of the owners of the tour bus company, Los Angeles-based USA Holiday.

The company has one vehicle and one driver, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Records on the agency's website show it had no crashes and one inspection in the two years before Oct. 22 and had a satisfactory safety rating.

A phone and Facebook message left for the company was not immediately returned. Its Facebook page has postings about trips leaving the Los Angeles area to casinos around the Coachella Valley and Las Vegas.

The CHP says all westbound lanes of the highway were closed and traffic was being diverted.

Cherokee join pipeline fight

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has donated $10,000 to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota to support its fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Cherokees say they presented a check last week in addition to providing three truckloads of firewood for those camping out to protest construction of the pipeline.

The Standing Rock Sioux want construction to stop on the $3.8 billion pipeline, saying it could contaminate the water supply and encroach on tribal burial sites. Protests supporting the tribe have been going on for months and have drawn thousands of people to the area where Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is trying to finish building the 1,200-mile pipeline.

More than 220 people have been arrested since demonstrations began in August, including 80 protesters on Saturday.

Fight for Vanderbilt mansion

The Rhode Island Supreme Court is stepping into a fight that has pitted dozens of members of the Vanderbilt family against a non-profit that owns several well-known mansions in Newport.

The disagreement centres on whether the group should be allowed to build a visitors centre on the grounds of the spectacular Vanderbilt mansion The Breakers, a national historic landmark.

The high court on Tuesday will hear arguments about two lawsuits over the plan to build the visitors centre on the 13-acre grounds of the mansion, built in the late 1800s by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Opponents — including designer Gloria Vanderbilt and nearly four dozen other members of the Vanderbilt family, as well as dozens of preservationists and others — have said the plan would "permanently mar this national symbol of Newport's Gilded Age."

The Preservation Society of Newport Country, which owns The Breakers and several other mansions in the wealthy resort town, says it wants to build the visitors centre in a little-used portion of the grounds to better serve its 400,000 annual visitors with improved ticketing and restroom facilities, as well as a place to buy pre-made sandwiches and refreshments. The society is Rhode Island's largest cultural institution by revenue, bringing in $22 million in 2014.

Many of the arguments out of the courtroom focus on whether the project would affect the historical integrity of the landscape that surrounds the 70-room mansion. Tuesday's arguments are not expected to focus on that question, but rather on the more mundane intricacies of local zoning laws, and whether the Preservation Society should be allowed to serve food on its properties.

A neighbours group, the Bellevue-Ochre Point Neighborhood Association, is fighting the city zoning board's approval of the plan. The lawyer for the neighbours group wrote in papers filed ahead of the arguments that the questions before the court will have "profound and lasting implications" on how land is used in Newport.

To ballot selfie or not

You probably already know whether you'll vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton on Election Day, leaving one important question to consider when you walk into your polling place: Is it OK to take a picture of your ballot?

While secrecy in the voting booth has become a thing of the past for those ready to share their views and daily lives on social media, laws nationwide are mixed on whether voters are allowed to take pictures of themselves in the act or of their ballots — "ballot selfies".

Federal judges have struck down bans on selfies in New Hampshire and Indiana, and rules have been changed in places like California and Rhode Island, but in many states it's still a violation that carries potential fines or jail terms.

There are laws against sharing any photo of your ballot in 18 states, while six other states bar photography in polling places but do allow photos of mail-in ballots, according to a review by The Associated Press.

Critics say such regulations have not kept up with technology and are confusing for voters and election workers. Some states that ban ballot selfies or have moved to block them cite concerns the photos could harm the integrity of the voting process by encouraging vote-buying or coercion, though some acknowledge there's no evidence to support those fears.

Nikola Jordan, 33, of Omaha, Nebraska, has been taking such photos for about 10 years and believes they are a great way not only to share her views on the issues, but also to stress the importance of voting and being civically active. A Nebraska lawmaker added a provision to state election law this year to allow ballot selfies.

"I was doing this for years before I learned it was technically illegal," Jordan said with a laugh. "It's all about encouraging other people to get involved in the process, to show it can be fun and exciting to make your voice heard (at the polls). Don't think of voting as some boring thing ... It's your chance to make a difference."

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston last month upheld a decision that New Hampshire's ban on ballot selfies was unconstitutional, saying it suppressed a large swath of political speech and there was no evidence to support the state's concerns.

"It goes to the core of democracy," said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which brought the suit on behalf of three people investigated for violating the statute.

Among those filing briefs in support of ballot selfies was Snapchat, which argued they are the latest way voters, especially young adults, get involved in the political process and express support for or against a cause or a candidate.

"We had a failure to recognize the importance of online political speech, especially to the younger generation," Bissonnette said. "The First Amendment needs to be guarded rigorously. These old laws cannot and should not be applied to the modern technology."


Deliver to: Space Station

The International Space Station received its first shipment from Virginia in more than two years Sunday following a sensational nighttime launch observed 250 miles up and down the East Coast.

Orbital ATK's cargo ship pulled up at the space station bearing 5,000 pounds of food, equipment and research.

"What a beautiful vehicle," said Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, who used the station's big robot arm to grab the vessel. The capture occurred as the spacecraft soared 250 miles above Kyrgyzstan; Onishi likened it to the last 195 metres of a marathon.

Last Monday's liftoff from Wallops Island was the first by an Antares rocket since a 2014 launch explosion. Orbital ATK redesigned its Antares rocket and rebuilt the pad. While the Antares was grounded, Virginia-based Orbital ATK kept the NASA supply chain open with deliveries from Cape Canaveral, Florida, using another company's rocket.

NASA is paying Orbital ATK and SpaceX to stock the station, but now SpaceX is grounded. The California company is investigating why one of its Falcon rockets exploded in a massive fireball during launch pad testing on Sept. 1.

Following liftoff, Orbital ATK's Cygnus capsule orbited solo for twice the usual amount of time. NASA wanted the Cygnus — named after the swan constellation — to wait for three astronauts to launch from Kazakhstan. They arrived Friday, doubling the size of the crew. Besides Onishi, the crew includes two Americans and three Russians.

Helping Onishi with the Cygnus on Sunday morning was NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. Their four-month mission will end next weekend.

This particular Cygnus, meanwhile, is officially known as the S.S. Alan Poindexter. Orbital ATK named it after a former space shuttle commander who helped to build the station. He was killed in a jet ski accident in 2012.

Once the Cygnus is unloaded, it will be filled with trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere in mid-November.

Cartel banks its cash in NYC

In the photos, Alejandra Salgado and her little brother Francisco look like ordinary tourists strolling the streets of midtown Manhattan. He carries a shopping bag. She wears a white dress, a necklace and a leather tote slung over one shoulder.

But the outings were hardly innocent.

Over two hours, federal agents snapped pictures as the pair visited seven banks, stopping at each one to make cash deposits of just under $10,000 — all from piles of drug money stashed in their bags.

Prosecutors say the flurry of modest deposits was one of the many schemes hatched by Mexican crime cartels trying to bring billions of dollars in drug proceeds back from the United States without attracting scrutiny from banking regulators.

The cartels collect much of their cash proceeds from the U.S. market much the way the cocaine and other drugs come in, by sneaking it across the border.

But using regular banks remains in the mix, said James Hunt, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York City office. The trick is keeping deposits small, because banks are required to report cash deposits of $10,000 or more to the government. The benefit, he said, is that if investigators do catch onto such a scheme, less cash gets confiscated. The bagmen also often face less jail time.

"It's a little more time-intensive but it's not as heavy a hit if you get caught," Hunt said.

Before they went to prison late last month, the Salgados were paid to launder up to $1 million a month collected from drug wholesalers doing business with the notorious Sinaloa cartel, prosecutors said.

Investigators say Alejandra Salgado, 59, who has a Mexico City address and was in the U.S. on an expired visa, was supervised by a high-ranking member of the cartel.

Agents began watching her in New York after her name came up in an investigation of money-laundering cells in southern California, Michigan and Arizona being conducted by investigators from the DEA Drug Enforcement Task Force, Department of Homeland Security, the IRS and local agencies.

Details from the case files of federal agents and narcotics prosecutors provided to the AP offer a look inside how the Salgados operated.

At one point she had been a courier who would drive drug money over the border.

But later, she was assigned by cartel leaders to deposit funds into multiple bank accounts held under fake names, then write checks to a produce company in San Diego controlled by the cartel.

An undercover investigator wearing a wire recorded her calling the assignment a "hassle," but safer than her previous gig.

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