The wildfires tearing through the state's wine country flared anew Wednesday, growing in size and number as authorities issued new evacuation orders. The death toll climbed to 21 and was expected to rise higher still. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the fires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history. Hundreds of people have been reported missing, though how many is unclear. Officials said the missing lists could include duplicated names and people who are safe but haven't told anyone, whether because of the general confusion or because cellphone service is out across wide areas. The State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said 22 wildfires were burning Wednesday, up from 17 on Tuesday. "Make no mistake, this is a serious, critical, catastrophic event," said department Chief Ken Pimlott. He added the fires have burned through a staggering 265 square miles of urban and rural areas. About 8,000 firefighters and other personnel were battling the blazes, and more resources were pouring in from Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona.
In historic shift, Boy Scouts to expand girls' participation
The Boy Scouts of America will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and establish a new program for older girls based on the Boy Scout curriculum that enables them to aspire to the coveted Eagle Scout rank. Founded in 1910 and long considered a bastion of tradition, the Boy Scouts have undergone major changes in the past five years, agreeing to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys. The expansion of girls' participation, announced Wednesday after unanimous approval by the board of directors, is arguably the biggest change yet. The Girl Scouts of the USA in August had sought to dissuade the Boys Scouts from the move, the group's president urging them to instead focus "on serving the 90 percent of American boys" not in Boy Scouts. On Wednesday, the Girl Scouts said they remained committed to their single-gender mission. "Girl Scouts is, and will remain, the scouting program that truly benefits U.S. girls by providing a safe space for them to learn and lead," the Girl Scouts said in a statement. Many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names, such as Scouts Canada. But for now, the Boy Scout label will remain.
IMF: Tax cuts for the wealthy undermine economic growth
The International Monetary Fund delivered a blunt warning to international policymakers ahead of the fund's annual meeting this week: Governments risk undermining global economic growth by cutting taxes on the wealthy. The message, while aimed broadly at all developed nations, carries particular resonance in the United States as the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers push a tax plan that critics say will exacerbate income inequality by reducing taxes for the richest Americans. In a report issued Wednesday, the fund emphasized flatter tax rates across income scales and lower rates for the highest earners could exacerbate a troubling trend toward growing inequality. The monetary fund's report builds on its broader message this week — that governments should take advantage of global economic strengthening to get their fiscal houses in order. By acting now to curb debt, overhaul inequities in taxation and lift spending on education and health for the poor, countries can stave off another economic crisis and help the most vulnerable in the process. President Donald Trump's agenda in many ways defies those recommendations.
Police arrest 10 in drinking death of LSU fraternity pledge
Ten people — ages 18 to 21, eight of whom are active students — were arrested Wednesday on misdemeanor hazing charges in the death of a Louisiana State University fraternity pledge whose blood-alcohol content was more than six times the legal limit for driving, officials said. One of the 10 suspects — Matthew Alexander Naquin, 19 — also faces a felony negligent homicide charge in the death of Maxwell Gruver, an 18-year-old freshman who was trying to join Phi Delta Theta, a now closed chapter of the national fraternity. Witnesses said Naquin apparently didn't like Gruver and singled him out during a hazing ritual involving 18 to 20 pledges the night before he died, forcing him to drink more than other pledges, according to a police report on the Sept. 14 death that was released Wednesday. Two members said they urged Naquin and another member to "cut it out" and "slow it down" to no avail. Naquin's lawyer declined to comment "out of respect for (Gruver's) family." An autopsy showed Gruver's blood-alcohol content at the time of his death was 0.495 percent. Gruver died of acute alcohol intoxication, with aspiration: He had inhaled vomit and other fluid into his lungs. — tbt* wires