Multi-story fire erupts at Dubai hotel


A massive, multi-story fire broke out in 63-story hotel in downtown Dubai hotel late Thursday, near where thousands of people had gathered to watch a New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

The Government of Dubai Media Office reported 14 minor injuries, one moderate injury and a heart attack due to overcrowding and smoke at the site. The office tweeted that all of the injured got prompt medical assistance.

The Address Downtown Dubai is a five-star hotel in the heart of the city, located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has 196 rooms, 626 residences and eight restaurants and bars. It is next door to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower at 2,722 feet. It is part of a mixed-use, large-scale development called Downtown Dubai. The hotel is also flanked by the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment center.

The BBC reported that black smoke and burning debris could be seen as firefighters arrived at the scene. Crowds gathering to watch the New Year’s Eve display were asked to leave the area around the hotel.

Margaret Besheer, an American vacationing in Dubai, told MSNBC that was dining on a nearby terrace when she looked up to see a fire on a lower balcony.

“It just spread very rapidly, I’d say within six or seven minutes, the entire side of the building was just engulfed in flames,” she said.

Another tourist, Michelle Duque, told the BBC: “All of a sudden we saw this huge black plume of black smoke coming” between the Khalifa Tower and the hotel. “The flames burst out really big and before we knew it the whole of the Address Hotel was covered in orange flames.”

Al Jazeera reported that one side of the hotel was “completely gone.”

The government media office confirmed the fire on its Twitter feed and said authorities are “on site to address the incident swiftly and safely.” The fire started on the 20th floor and was confined to an outside tower, the media office said. At least four fire department squads had responded to the scene.

Jaqueline Hurtado, a CNN en Español correspondent, reported that she was at a restaurant in the area when she heard an explosion, “like a loud pop,” and thought the fireworks display may have started early. “That fire was big. The fire was just going so fast,” she said. “It just started burning real quick.”

She and others were evacuated from the area.

The media office said that New Year’s Eve celebrations would go on as planned. Downtown Dubai had advertised an elaborate fireworks display that took six months to prepare. Up to two million people were expected in central Dubai for the fireworks, the BBC reported.


Amanda Blackburn killing part of eight-day crime spree


The teen accused of killing a pastor’s wife went on an eight-day binge of random and brutal violence even before he entered Amanda Blackburn’s house, authorities say.

• On Nov. 3, Larry Taylor, 18, raped a woman while he and two accomplices burglarized an apartment, court documents allege.

• The next day, Taylor shot and killed a man because he only had $10 when Taylor robbed him.

• And on Nov. 10, Taylor is accused of shooting and killing Blackburn, mother of a toddler who was pregnant with her second child, in a senseless act that garnered international intention for its randomness.

But the Nov. 4 slaying is attracting fresh attention for Taylor as the violent felonies he faces continue to mount. Prosecutors filed murder and robbery charges against Taylor on Monday in connection with the shooting death of Rolando Gonzalez-Hernandez.

Gonzalez-Hernandez, 26, was found lying on the ground next to his Chevrolet Trailblazer in an apartment complex, killed with a bullet to the head. An affidavit cites multiple informants who told detectives that Taylor told people he would “hit a lick,” a street term for a robbery, at La Joya Apartments.

Taylor told one informant that he shot a man after taking $10 from his wallet, according to the affidavit. He later showed the informant a news clip about Gonzalez-Hernandez’s shooting.

Cellphone records place Taylor in the area during the shooting, the affidavit said.

The incident now is one of three pending felony cases against Taylor. He also faces pending misdemeanor charges of public nudity and public indecency.

The rape the previous day occurred at an apartment about 7 miles away, court documents said. The woman told police she was alone and taking a shower when two men entered her home.

Jalen Watson, 21, pointed a gun at the woman, ordered her out of the shower and instructed her to lay face down on the bedroom floor, according to court documents. Watson rifled through the apartment while Taylor held a gun to the woman’s head and sexually assaulted her.

That’s “not what we’re here for. Don’t do that,” Watson told Taylor.

The case closely mirrors details of the burglary of Blackburn’s home though prosecutors are not alleging that Blackburn, 28, was raped.

Court documents allege Taylor shot and killed her after he and Watson burglarized her unlocked home. A third man, Diano Gordon, is accused in two burglaries committed in the neighborhood before the slaying.

Blackburn’s killing drew widespread sympathy, as well as fear in the days following the killing. She and her husband Davey moved to Indianapolis from South Carolina to found the Resonate Church.

Flooding intensifies as massive storm rolls across U.S.

A massive weather system that devastated parts of the South and Midwest roared north and east Tuesday, leaving flooding in its wake and driving ice, snow, heavy rains – and headaches – into the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

Winter weather slowed traffic to a crawl in parts of New York, New England and elsewhere. Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas were among states battling flooding from days of heavy rain.

More than 1,200 flights were canceled across the nation by 2:30 p.m. ET, according to the FlightAware tracking website. More than 240 flights were canceled in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Officials at Indianapolis Airport broke out cots and snacks as hundreds of would-be passengers waited for passage on canceled or delayed flights.

“Looking on the bright side! Connect to our free WiFi on your phone, tablet, or laptop,” the airport tweeted.

In Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon traveled to Perryville, 80 miles south of St. Louis, to help co-ordinate government efforts to minimize flooding. Several towns were evacuating and some were already flooded. The Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec rivers all were at or near flood stage. The worst flooding in some areas was not expected until Thursday.

“River levels in some areas are expected to match or exceed records set in ’93,” Nixon said.

In the Northeast, snow and ice were the problem. Boston, which last winter set a record with more than 9 feet of snow, has been reveling in a mild winter so far this season. On Tuesday the plows roared out of city garages.

“Encouraging everyone to be extra cautious during this morning’s commute as #BOSnow makes an appearance for the first time this winter,” Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted.

The roads across parts of New York state were littered with accidents and slowdowns. The Transportation Department warned drivers to “be extra alert when traveling to account for the snow/ice.”

Burlington, Vt., was dealing with snow and sleet. Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, was warning of likely outages as the winter storm bore down on the state.

The National Weather Service forecast a sometimes heavy mix of snow and ice through Tuesday night across parts of the Northern and Central Plains, the Great Lakes and the Northeast. Maine might see the worst of it; the weather service warned that parts of the state could be walloped with 2 inches of snow per hour.

The week-old weather pattern that brought tornadoes, snow, ice, heavy rain and flooding to Texas and parts of the Midwest and Southeast has been blamed for more than 40 deaths.


Sheriff: Mom plotted ‘affluenza’ teen’s escape

A Texas teen found responsible for a drunken-driving crash that killed four people in 2013 was caught in Mexico along with his mother, even though he had dyed his hair a dark brown to evade identification.

Ethan Couch and his mom, Tonya Couch, were detained at 6 p.m. CT Monday in the Pacific resort city of Puerto Vallarta, said Sharen Wilson, Tarrant County district attorney. His mother also had cut her hair shorter than in photos that U.S. authorities were distributing.

Ethan Couch, now 18, had been the subject of an international manhunt after violating terms of his probation for his conviction on four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Mexico’s Jalisco state prosecutors’ office said in a statement that its agents had been working with American authorities via the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara since Saturday to track down and capture the pair. After their detention, they were handed over to Mexican immigration authorities for deportation and are expected to return to the United States on a commercial flight to Houston sometime Tuesday.

“They are going to be sent back to their country, given that they were in Mexico improperly,” said Ricardo Ariel Vera, a representative with Mexico’s immigration institute in the state of Jalisco. “They would have had to enter, for example, as tourists. But they entered without registering.”

The teen’s lawyers, Scott Brown and Wm. Reagan Wynn, said they hadn’t been in contact with their client and probably won’t get to speak with him until he is back in the USA.

Ethan Couch and his mother were discovered to be missing after the teen failed to appear for a Dec. 10 meeting with his probation officer. A warrant then was issued for the his arrest.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said he believes the two fled in late November after a video surfaced that appears to show Ethan Couch at a party that included alcohol. Drinking is a violation of the teen’s probation, which if revoked could result in his being sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Texas, like all U.S. states, has a legal minimum drinking age for alcoholic beverages of 21 years old.

Because Tonya Couch, 48, appears to have helped her son escape the country, she will face charges of hindering apprehension, and a warrant will be issued for her arrest, Anderson said in a Tuesday news conference. The Couches even had what Anderson called a going-away party before driving to Mexico in a pickup.

The pair were found in a Puerto Vallarta neighborhood away from its tourist area.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which had issued a wanted poster promising a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to Ethan Couch’s whereabouts and capture, had no immediate comment.

​In June 2013, Ethan Couch, then living in the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson, was driving drunk and speeding on a dark two-lane road south of Fort Worth when he crashed into a disabled SUV off to the side, killing four people and injuring several others, including passengers in the then-16-year-old’s pickup.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Because of his age, he wasn’t certified as an adult for trial and a judge sentenced him in juvenile court to 10 years’ probation and a stint in a rehabilitation center.

During a hearing next month Wilson said her office plans to ask a judge to transfer Ethan Couch’s case to adult court.

The case gained worldwide notoriety when Couch’s lawyers claimed that their client suffered from “affluenza” after his well-to-do parents shielded him from the consequences of his actions.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, Couch’s lawyers relied on a defense expert who argued that Couch’s wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility — a condition the expert termed “affluenza.” The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and the term drew widespread ridicule.

Anderson was among those critical of the judge’s decision not to incarcerate Couch. The sheriff said that the teen never had expressed remorse for his actions and that his case sparked more outrage than any other the sheriff had encountered in his law enforcement career.

Contributing: The Associated Press


Authorities say the Texas teen and his mom were detained in Puerto Vallarta. Ethan Couch was serving probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving wreck when he disappeared, sparking an international manhunt. AP


Sanders, O’Malley decry reports of plans to deport families


The Democratic presidential campaigns are denouncing reports that the Obama administrationis planning to deport families who have fled to the United States from Central America.

“As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do?” said Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont.

Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, said that “we are a better nation than this.”

O’Malley also tweeted that a “Christmas Refugee Roundup” sounds like somethingDonald Trump would concoct. He added, “Remember: Jesus was a refugee child who fled death gangs.”

Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, said the former secretary of state “has real concerns about these reports, especially as families are coming together during this holiday season.”

Clinton believes that all migrants deserve “a full and fair hearing, and that our country provides refuge to those that need it,” she added. “And we should be guided by a spirit of humanity and generosity as we approach these issues.”

O’Malley’s spokesperson, Lis Smith, pointed out in a tweet that Clinton has backed the idea of deportations.

Earlier this year, Clinton said deportations would dissuade Central American parents from sending their unaccompanied children over the border.

“Specifically with respect to children on the border, if you remember, we had an emergency, and it was very important to send a message to families in Central America: Do not let your children take this very dangerous journey,” Clinton has been quoted as saying.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, said immigration officials at theDepartment of Homeland Security are planning a series of raids to deport hundreds of families who fled to the United States from Central America since the start of last year.

The operation “would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge,” the Post reported.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took credit for the policy Thursday, saying his campaign’s emphasis on securing the border forced officials to act.



The Donald strikes back: Trump attacks Bill Clinton’s ‘sexism’

Donald Trump is threatening to bring up Bill Clinton’s past with women if Hillary Clinton continues “playing the women’s card.” USA TODAY

Donald Trump tried to turn Hillary Clinton’s criticism of him as having “a penchant for sexism” back on her husband this weekend, in response to the news that Bill Clinton would begin to hit the campaign trail for his wife.

“I really deplore the tone of his campaign,” Clinton told the Des Moines Register last week. “I don’t know that he has any boundaries at all. And his bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.”

In response to Trump saying that she was “schlonged” in the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton said, “I don’t respond to him personally because he thrives on that kind of exchange,” but she added, “It’s not the first time he’s demonstrated a penchant for sexism.”

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton discusses the way republican Donald Trump campaigns during an interview with the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Kelsey Kremer/The Register

The comment sparked the sort of exchange Clinton said she wished to avoid, as Trump used her exact words to criticize her husband, tweeting, “Hillary Clinton has announced that she is letting her husband out to campaign but HE’S DEMONSTRATED A PENCHANT FOR SEXISM, so inappropriate!.”

Last week, Trump warned Clinton to “be careful” in labeling him as sexist. “I have great respect for women,” he tweeted.

Trump said during an interview on Fox and Friends Sunday that Bill Clinton is “fair game” because “his presidency was considered to be very troubled” in regards to allegations of sexism.

Trump also repeated his warning that Hillary Clinton has “got to be careful.”

“We all have to fight fairly,” Trump said. “She’s playing the woman’s card and it’s like ‘gimme a break.'”

Trump shows complete domination of Facebook conversation


Donald Trump is reaching new heights in his domination of the political conversation on Facebook.

In the week before Christmas, the GOP front-runner generated just over 50 million interactions on Facebook — likes, shares, posts and comments — nearly double the combined 29.6 million total of all other presidential contenders, according to data provided by the social media service. The explosion in traffic occurred in the wake of Trump’s controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The 50 million interactions from 14 million unique users represent Trump’s highest total for any week of the year. Trump tallied 41.6 million interactions on Facebook the first week of September; the highest total of any of his competitors was the 28.3 million interactionsHillary Clinton racked up when she announced her campaign in April. Clinton tallied 9.4 million interactions the week before Christmas; Bernie Sanders got 6.5 million.

The total interactions for the first three weeks of December demonstrate just how much of the conversation Trump consumes: Trump, 98.9 million; Clinton 22.9 million; Sanders 14.5 million; Ted Cruz, 13.7 million; Ben Carson, 6.7 million. Nobody else was over 5 million.

Trump’s dominance of the on-line discussion is not new, but it is getting bigger. Of the 20 most active weeks on Facebook among all the presidential candidates in 2015, Trump accounts for 17 of them, the other three belonging to Clinton.

It is also worth noting that there were 25 instances this year of a single candidate being discussed by more than 5 million unique Facebook users in a week. Three of those instances were Hillary Clinton; one was Bernie Sanders; the rest were all Trump. Trump has topped 10 million unique users talking about him three times. No other candidate hit that milestone in 2015.

It is worth noting that this data makes no attempt to part the sentiment of the comments being posted; a significant share of the conversation about Trump (and the rest of the candidates) is probably negative.

Here’s what the Trump Facebook trend line looks like, from our Facebook Barometer:

Whatever happened to Deez Nuts?

xxx The 15-year-old rural Iowa boy behind the faux candidate ‘Deez Nuts’ talks about his campaign and the upcoming presidential election. VPC

CINCINNATI — Life has mostly returned to normal for Brady Olson. He’s turned 16. He’s waded through exams at school. He doesn’t get many interview requests these days.

But he still supports Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. And, of course, himself — “Deez Nuts.”

Olson, who lives on a farm in Wallingford, Iowa, this summer became one of nearly 1,500 people who have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2016.

No, he’s not old enough to be president. No, that isn’t his real name — it’s a reference to a skit from a Dr. Dre album, which came to prominence again this summer after a rash of related online video memes.

But fake names haven’t stopped scores of people from filing the initial FEC paperwork for joke candidacies. And choosing just the right fake name is probably why Brady’s candidacy went viral this summer.

“People were getting a kick out of it,” Brady said in an interview conducted over email, because he was swamped studying for pre-holidays high school tests. “People don’t like the way our system is running.”

His friends in his 40-person high school class got over his summertime fame after the first day back at school, but Brady still thinks people will write him in on some caucus or primary ballots.

If Brady were old enough to vote, and if he caucused with Republicans, he’d either vote for Kasich or former New York Gov. George Pataki — because they’re moderates, he says. But he leans toward Kasich because Pataki has failed to qualify for several states’ primary ballots. He still supports Sanders among Democrats. “He looks like the guy that cares the most,” he said.

Still, Brady thinks Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are most likely to win their parties’ nominations — “regretfully,” he said.

Then he offered a note of caution.

“Don’t forget that most voters don’t make up their minds until two weeks before an election, regardless of previous polls,” he said. “Get involved. Go out and vote. One vote matters. … Be informed, don’t walk into the polls blindly.

“Also, vote Deez Nuts.”


Obama most admired man; Trump tied for 2nd

Once again, President Obama tops the annual Gallup Poll for most admired man, although this year an intriguing pair is tied for second.

Donald Trump and Pope Francis both finished with 5% of respondents who named them their most admired man, well behind Obama’s 17%.

“Trump’s surprisingly strong and often controversial presidential campaign has made him a prominent news figure this year and, thus, top-of-mind for many Americans,” Gallup reported. “This helps explain his strong showing when Gallup asks Americans, in an open-ended fashion, to name the man they admire most. The successful businessman has finished in the top 10 four other times, including from 1988 through 1990 and in 2011.”

Another 2016 presidential candidate — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of State — topped the list of most admired women for the 14th straight year and 20th time overall.

The men’s top 10 most admired features three presidents (Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton), three current presidential candidates (Trump, Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson), and three religious and spiritual leaders (Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and the Rev. Billy Graham), The 10th male on the list is Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Also from Gallup:

“The 10 most admired women are an eclectic mix of political figures (Clinton, fellow 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin), human rights leaders (Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar), and television personalities (Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres). Queen Elizabeth of England and Michelle Obama, who hold largely ceremonial positions in the government, also finished among the leading women.”


These year-end mistakes could cost you big time.


Many Flex Spending Accounts are use it or lose it.

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to use it!

Saving expert Matt Granite shows you how to maximize every FSA dollar you can’t roll over into the new year.

Watch the video above for tips on making sure your finances are in order for tax time and what warning signs you should be looking for on your next credit card bill.

Follow deal expert @MattGranite for more money saving tips.

Matt Granite is a consumer reporter with WKYC in Cleveland. His videos offer tips to consumers on how to save money.

We do not get any financial compensation for mentioning any of these deals or companies. The only purpose of this segment is to save you money.




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