Top news stories for today – July 31, 2016
Hot air balloon crash in Texas no survivors
A hot air balloon carrying at least 16 people caught fire and crashed into a pasture in Texas on Saturday morning. The crash happened near a small city called Lockhart in Caldwell County south of Austin around 7:40 a.m. Central time.
The Texas Department of Public Safety initially announced multiple fatalities, and Caldwell County later confirmed there were no survivors of the crash. “Investigators are determining the number and the identities of victims at this time,” said the local sheriff, Daniel Law. Associated Press, NBC News
California wildfire spread 50 square miles
Nearly 4,300 firefighters on central California’s Big Sur coast continue to battle the Soberanes Wildfire, a raging blaze that has spread to cover about 50 square miles (or 32,000 acres). The fire began last Friday and is mostly located in the drought-ridden Los Padres National Forest, but it has destroyed 57 homes and caused multiple parks to close.
As of Saturday, the fire is just 15 percent contained as “high temperatures [and] rugged, steep terrain” make firefighters’ work difficult. Meanwhile, another wildfire near Los Angeles, the Sand Fire, is 85 percent contained after burning nearly 60 square miles (39,000 acres). Reuters, KSBW
Special panel to decide eligibility of Russian athletes
The International Olympic Committee has established a special three-member panel to decide which Russian athletes will be permitted to compete in the Summer Olympics, which open August 5 in Rio de Janeiro.
The IOC’s executive board announced the move Saturday in its final regular meeting before opening ceremonies. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the panel would rule on the eligibility of Russian athletes cleared of doping accusations by individual sports federations and approved by an independent arbitrator. He also said all decisions would be made before the start of the games.
WHO chief says Zika risk low in Rio Olympics
The risk of Zika virus infections at the Olympic Games is both low and manageable, the chief of the World Health Organization said on Friday, a week before the event kicks off in Rio de Janeiro.
Nearly half a million people are expected to visit for the Games, many from the United States. Worries about security, the Zika virus and an economic crisis could deter travelers, with just under a third of event tickets as yet unsold. Brazil has been hardest hit by the disease outbreak, and many physicians, competitors and potential visitors have expressed fears the Olympics could serve as a catalyst to spread the virus globally.
“We feel that the risk of Zika infection is low for an individual, and it is manageable,” Margaret Chan, director general of the world health body, told reporters in the Chinese capital. VOA
US Presidential election
Trump’s convention polling bump evaporates: Republican Donald Trump took a six-point national lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in at least two polls immediately following his nomination at his party’s convention in Cleveland. That polling bump has since evaporated, as a new Reuters survey finds Clinton is now six points ahead after her own convention. Meanwhile, a Real Clear Politics average of multiple recent polls puts Trump and Clinton in a dead heat — each claiming 44.3 percent national support — as of Friday. It likewise records the disappearance of Trump’s brief lead, which marked only the second time he has ever pulled into first place per that calculation. The Hill, Real Clear Politics
Clinton campaign denies its computer system was hacked: Hillary Clinton’s campaign denied its computers were among the Democratic tech systems reported hacked on Friday. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Friday night “an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by our campaign and a number of other entities was accessed as part of the DNC hack,” but insisted experts “have found no evidence that our internal systems have been compromised.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cannot say the same. The DCCC acknowledged evidence of hacking Friday, a breach which follows last month’s revelation that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked and last week’s subsequent leak of thousands of internal DNC emails. The Washington Post, Reuters
Trump Responds to Criticism From Late Veteran’s Father: In an emotional speech at the Democratic National Convention this week, Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, said that under Trump’s proposed immigration policies, his family would never have been allowed to come to the U.S. and that Trump, during his life, has “sacrificed nothing and no one.” Trump responded to Khan in an interview Saturday with ABC News. “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “I’ve worked very, very hard, I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs.” Trump also said he had raised millions of dollars for U.S. veterans and played a big part in getting a Vietnam War memorial built in New York City. VOA
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