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Will GOP Rep. Jim Jordan be elected speaker today?




Washington —  Rep. Jim Jordan failed to win a majority in the first new House speaker ballot, sending the lower chamber back for more rounds of voting to elect a permanent leader. 

Jordan lost 20 Republicans, winning just 200 votes, falling shy of the 217 needed. Democrats nominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who received 212 votes. 

Six Republicans voted for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted on Oct. 3. Several others voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who withdrew his name from consideration last week, and also for former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Trump ally who didn’t run for reelection in 2022 when he ran for governor in New York. 

Jordan told reporters ahead of the vote that voting would continue “until we get a speaker.” McCarthy had to endure 15 rounds of voting over four days before he was finally elected speaker. 

The high-stakes vote was held by roll call, so every member’s vote was read in the mostly quiet chamber, save for some sporadic bursts of applause. Given Republicans’ slim majority, Jordan could not afford to lose more than four votes, which he had lost early in the alphabetical tallying. 

Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this report.

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Raging wildfire reaches resort town of Jasper in Canadian Rockies’ largest national park




Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada — One of two raging wildfires menacing the town of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies’ largest national park roared into town Wednesday and began burning buildings.

Jasper National Park officials said the fire entered the southern edge of the community Wednesday evening and crews were battling multiple structural fires and working to protect key infrastructure. There were significant losses in some areas, they said.

Forest firefighters and others without self-contained breathing apparatuses were told to evacuate to the nearby town of Hinton, with structural firefighters staying behind.

Wildfire burns in Jasper
Flames and smoke rise from a burning wildfire, as seen from a highway, in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, on July 23, 2024, in this screen grab obtained from a social media video.

Donald Schroll via REUTERS

Parks Canada spokesperson James Eastham told reporters outside Jasper that the town is filled with smoke and there “has been structural loss,” adding that “significant loss has occurred within the townsite.”

“At this point I can’t confirm how many, locations or specific structures. The fire continues to burn,” he said.

The park said in a statement that Wednesday “has been an exceptionally difficult day for Jasperites, incident personnel and everyone who loves Jasper.”

Structural firefighters continue to work to save as many structures as possible and to protect critical infrastructure. Many more structural firefighters are en route to provide assistance.

As the pictures and videos circulating online show, significant loss has occurred within the townsite.   

Parks Canada said firefighters are working to save “as many structures as possible and to protect critical infrastructure, including the wastewater treatment plant, communications facilities, the Trans Mountain Pipeline and others.”

A few hours earlier, many first responders were ordered out of Jasper National Park for their safety.

Jasper is being menaced by fires from the north and south, and the town’s 5,000 residents — along with 20,000 more park visitors — fled on short notice late Monday night when the fires flared up.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they are “mobilizing every necessary resource available.” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said she was “heartbroken.”

A record number of wildfires in 2023 forced more than 235,000 people across Canada to evacuate and sent thick smoke into parts of the U.S., leading to hazy skies and health advisories in multiple U.S. cities.

The northern fire was spotted about 3 miles from Jasper earlier in the day. The southern fire had been reported about 5 miles away from the town, but Katie Ellsworth of Parks Canada said strong wind gusts swooping in behind it sent it racing.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong as fire perimeters changed minute by minute.

Ellsworth said bucketing efforts by helicopter failed. Crews using heavy equipment to build fireguards couldn’t complete the work before having to pull back for safety. Water bombers couldn’t help due to dangerous flying conditions.

A last-ditch effort to use controlled burns to reroute the fire to natural barriers like Highway 16 and the Athabasca River failed due to “unfavorable conditions.”

The hope was that rain forecast overnight would bring some relief.

Ellsworth said the decision to relocate all first responders to Hinton, just outside the eastern edge of the park, “has not been made lightly.”

She said, “Given the intensity of fire behavior being observed, the decision has been made to limit the number of responders exposed to this risk.”

Jasper National Park is considered a national treasure. The United Nations designated the parks that make up the Canadian Rockies, including Jasper, a World Heritage Site in 1984 for its striking mountain landscape.

In 1953, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe visited to make the movie “River of No Return.” More recently, the TV show “The Bachelorette” was filmed there.

Park rangers in helicopters scoured the park earlier Wednesday, looking for stragglers still there despite a mass evacuation aimed at moving visitors and residents away. Searchers looking through the backcountry trails of Jasper National Park already had picked up 245 people, and they continued the search Wednesday in two helicopters, Ellsworth said.

Residents and visitors streamed out by the thousands late Monday and Tuesday, and officials said Wednesday the evacuation of the town of Jasper was complete.

Ellsworth said park officials expected the evacuation of the park’s backcountry areas to be completed later Wednesday. Reservations are required for the park, so authorities have an idea of where people are, though Ellsworth said she wasn’t immediately sure how many people were left.

Alberta has been baking under scorching temperatures that have already forced another 7,500 people out of remote communities. About 177 wildfires were burning across the province.

Jasper resident Leanne Maeva Joyeuse was relieved but exhausted after reaching the Grand Prairie evacuation center following 20 hours on the road with her grandmother, parents and younger brother.

“We’re just waiting to go back home and see how many days we’re going to be stuck here,” Joyeuse said.

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Israel retrieves bodies of 5 hostages believed killed during Oct. 7 Hamas attack, military says




Israeli forces recovered the bodies of five people believed to have been killed during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel and brought into the Gaza Strip, where they were being held hostage, the military said Thursday.

The army said the bodies of hostage Maya Goren as well as four soldiers had been returned to Israel. The troops were identified as Sgt. Oren Goldin, Staff Sgt. Tomer Ahimas, Sgt. Maj. Ravid Aryeh Katz and Sgt. Kiril Brodski.

The bodies were recovered on Wednesday during an operation in Khan Yunis, the main city in the southern Gaza Strip, the military said.

The military had announced Goren’s death in December.

Maya Goren, a 56-year-old kindergarten teacher believed to have been killed during the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack on southern Israel whose body was being held hostage in southern Gaza. Israeli military said on July 25, 2024 that her body had been recovered by Israeli forces.  

The Hostages Families Forum / Handout via REUTERS

Thursday’s announcement came after two Israeli kibbutzim, Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak, said in separate statements that the army had retrieved the bodies of Goren and Goldin.

“Last night, we were informed that in a military rescue operation, the body of the late Maya Goren was recovered,” kibbutz Nir Oz said, adding that her family had been informed and more information would follow. Goren was a 56-year-old kindergarten teacher.

Later, kibbutz Nir Yitzhak said the army had returned Goldin’s body.

“This evening, we were informed about the rescue operation for the late Oren Goldin, a member of the kibbutz emergency team, who fell on October 7 during the attack by Hamas militants,” Nir Yitzhak said.

On October 7, Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli communities, which resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized 251 hostages, 111 of whom remain in Gaza, including 39 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 39,145 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

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Missouri Supreme Court halts release of man whose murder conviction was overturned




The Missouri Supreme Court halted the immediate release Wednesday of a man whose murder conviction was overturned — just as the man was about to walk free.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge had ordered Christopher Dunn, now 52, to be released by 6 p.m. CDT Wednesday and threatened the prison warden with contempt if Dunn remained imprisoned. But Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey has been fighting Dunn’s release.

The situation was chaotic as the deadline set by the judge approached. Corrections Department spokesperson Karen Pojmann told The Associated Press that Dunn was out of the prison facility and waiting for a ride. His wife told the AP she was on his way to pick him up. Minutes later, Pojmann corrected herself and said that while Dunn was signing paperwork to be released, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a ruling that put his freedom on hold.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Jason Sengheiser overturned Dunn’s murder conviction Monday, citing evidence of “actual innocence” in the 1990 killing. He ordered Dunn’s immediate release then, but Bailey appealed, and the state Department of Corrections declined to release Dunn.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore had filed a motion Wednesday urging the judge to immediately order Dunn’s freedom.

“The Attorney General cannot unilaterally decide to ignore this Court’s Order,” Gore wrote.

An attorney for the Department of Corrections told a lawyer in Gore’s office that Bailey advised the agency not to release Dunn until the appeal plays out, according to a court filing. When told it was improper to ignore a court order, the Department of Corrections attorney “responded that the Attorney General’s Office is legal counsel to the DOC and the DOC would be following the advice of counsel.”

Dunn’s attorney, Tricia Rojo Bushnell, the executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, expressed her frustration.

“What is this bringing to taxpayers in Missouri? What is this use of our resources and our state’s time getting us?” she said. “All it’s doing is keeping innocent people in prison.”

Dunn’s wife said while driving to the prison that they were numb when he didn’t get out earlier this week.

“If you know a little about the story, you know we’ve had a lot of disappointments where we thought we’d finally get his freedom and it was snatched away,” Kira Dunn said. “So we were just bracing ourselves.”

Dunn’s situation is similar to what happened to Sandra Hemme.

The 64-year-old woman spent 43 years in prison for the fatal stabbing of a woman in St. Joseph in 1980. A judge on June 14 cited evidence of “actual innocence” and overturned her conviction. She had been the longest held wrongly incarcerated woman known in the U.S., according to the National Innocence Project, which worked to free Hemme.

Appeals by Bailey — all the way up to the Missouri Supreme Court — kept Hemme imprisoned at the Chillicothe Correctional Center. During a court hearing Friday, Judge Ryan Horsman said that if Hemme wasn’t released within hours, Bailey himself would have to appear in court with contempt of court on the table. Hemme was released later that day.

The judge also scolded Bailey’s office for calling the warden and telling prison officials not to release Hemme after he ordered her to be freed on her own recognizance.

Dunn, who is Black, was 18 in 1990 when 15-year-old Ricco Rogers was killed. Among the key evidence used to convict him of first-degree murder was testimony from two boys who were at the scene of the shooting. Both later recanted their testimony, saying they had been coerced by police and prosecutors.

At an evidentiary hearing in 2020, another judge agreed that a jury would likely find Dunn not guilty based on new evidence. But that judge, William Hickle, declined to exonerate Dunn, citing a 2016 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that only death row inmates — not those like Dunn sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole — could make a “freestanding” claim of actual innocence.

A 2021 law now allows prosecutors to seek court hearings in cases with new evidence of a wrongful conviction.

Although Bailey’s office is not required to oppose such efforts, lawyers for his office said at the hearing that initial testimony from two boys at the scene who identified Dunn as the shooter was correct, even though they recanted as adults.

He also raised opposition at a hearing for Lamar Johnson, who spent 28 years in prison for murder. Another St. Louis judge ruled in February 2023 that Johnson was wrongfully convicted, and he was freed.

Another hearing begins Aug. 21 for death row inmate Marcellus Williams. Bailey’s office is opposing the challenge to Williams’ conviction, too. Timing is of the essence: Williams is scheduled to be executed Sept. 24.

Steven Puro, professor emeritus of political science at St. Louis University, said Bailey is in a highly competitive race for the attorney general position with the primary quickly approaching on Aug. 6.

“Bailey is trying to show that he is, quote, ‘tough on crime,’ which is a very important Republican conservative position,” he said. “Clearly, he’s angering members of the judicial system that he will have to argue before in the future. But he’s making the strategic notion that he needs to get his name before the voters and try to use that to win the primary election.”

Michael Wolff, a former Missouri Supreme Court judge and chief justice, agreed, saying it seems this has become political for Bailey.

“But one of the things is that no matter what your beliefs are, if a court orders something to happen, it’s not your purview to say no,” he said. “The court has to be obeyed.”

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