AP News in Brief at 6:04 am EDT

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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EDT

| Time nearly up: Fierce Hurricane Florence aims at Southeast

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the Southeastern coast. Forecasters said early Thursday that the storm’s outer rain bands are approaching the North Carolina coast. Its wind speeds have dropped from a high of 140 mph (225 kph) to 110 mph (175 kph), reducing it from a Category 4 storm to a Category 2, and additional fluctuations and weakening were likely as it swirled toward land.

But authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous. “Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?” said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The National Hurricane Center’s best guess was that Florence would blow ashore as early as Friday afternoon around the North Carolina-South Carolina line, then slog its rainy way westward with a potential for catastrophic inland flooding that could swamp homes, businesses and farm fields.

About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said. ___ WHAT’S HAPPENING: Hurricane Florence looms over East Coast

MIAMI (AP) – A big one. A monster. A once-in-a-lifetime storm.

Hurricane Florence deserves all the names it’s being called as it threatens to cause historic flooding, blow catastrophic winds and idle for days over the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic. Adding to the storm stress is uncertainty about where exactly Florence will make landfall, after a shift in its track put more of the Southeast in danger. BY THE NUMBERS

-Get out: 1.7 million people under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders, and more than 10 million people live in places currently under storm watches or warnings -Grounded: Nearly 1,000 flights canceled through Friday -Gas stations running on empty: 5 percent in North Carolina were out, plus one in 10 gas stations in Wilmington and Raleigh-Durham, 2.1 percent in South Carolina, and 1 percent in Virginia

___

5 slain in Southern California shootings; gunman kills self BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) – A gunman killed five people, including his wife, before turning the gun on himself as a Kern County sheriff’s deputy closed in Wednesday, authorities said. There was no immediate word on what sparked the shootings that took place at a home and a business in Bakersfield, which is some 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

“Obviously, these are not random shootings,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told KERO-TV. Six people died in a short amount of time, he added. The man first showed up at a trucking business with his wife shortly before 5:30 p.m. where he confronted another man.

“The suspect, the husband, shot the person at the trucking company and then turned and shot his wife,” then chased and shot another man who showed up, Youngblood said. ___ Nixon hopes for big upset as primary battle with Cuomo ends

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Democrats across New York state will soon decide the winner of the long and sometimes nasty primary contest between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and activist and former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon. The outcome of Thursday’s Democratic primary will likely resonate around the nation, as it is a particularly high-profile example of the insurgent left-wing that is seeking to oust establishment incumbents who they say have failed to deliver on liberal promises.

Nixon has hammered Cuomo for failing to address New York City’s beleaguered subways and for not following through on pledges to address corruption. She’s called Cuomo a bully and says she represents a wave of liberals eager to take a greater role in American politics. “Together, we can show the entire country that in the era of Donald Trump, New Yorkers will come together and lead our nation forward,” Nixon wrote Wednesday evening in a final message to supporters.

Cuomo has mounted a formidable defense, touting liberal accomplishments such as gun control, free public college tuition and a higher minimum wage. He’s spent millions on ads and tried to make the race about Republican President Donald Trump, arguing that he’s the best qualified to govern and push back against the White House. In short, the liberal who gets things done.

___ Philippines starts massive evacuations as huge typhoon nears MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Philippine authorities began evacuating thousands of people Thursday in the path of the most powerful typhoon this year, closing schools, readying bulldozers for landslides and placing rescuers and troops on full alert in the country’s north.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii categorized the storm as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts. Forecasters said Typhoon Mangkhut could hit northeastern Cagayan province on Saturday. It was tracked on Thursday about 725 kilometers (450 miles) away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), they said.

With a massive raincloud band 900 kilometers (560 miles) wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon could bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods, government forecasters said. Storm warnings have been raised in 25 provinces on the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea travel. Office of Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad said more than 4 million people in the northeastern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela and outlying provincial regions are vulnerable to the most destructive effects near the typhoon’s 125-kilometer (77-mile) -wide eye.

Nearly 48,000 houses in those high-risk areas are made of light materials and vulnerable to Mangkhut’s ferocious winds. ___ Millions on the US coast prepare as monster storm approaches

As Hurricane Florence approaches the Southeastern U.S. coast, millions of people in the path of are frantically preparing for the monster storm. Residents in states from Virginia to Georgia – especially those who live in flood-prone areas or on the coast – must decide whether to stay or go. For some, the choice was easy.

For others, the choice was less clear. Here are some snapshots of a region awaiting the hurricane: A FINAL GLASS OF WINE

Hours before a mandatory evacuation took effect, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, resident Phoebe Tesh paused between loading her car to have a glass of wine on the steps of the house where she and her husband rent an apartment. “We just love it down here so much we want to spend as time as we can,” she said. ___

Karen Pence wants to help ease burden for military spouses WASHINGTON (AP) – Being married to the vice president has its privileges. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, says one is that “now people take my phone calls.”

She is using her new cachet these days to call around on behalf of military spouses. She wants to be their voice and help them overcome the challenges that come with being wed to an active-duty service member. One such issue is getting states to accept out-of-state professional licenses instead of making military spouses get new licenses every time they have to relocate.

Mrs. Pence says the issue can affect military readiness. She plans to address it in a speech Thursday at Fort Carson, Colorado, that will mark the beginning of a campaign to elevate, encourage and thank military spouses.

___ Q&A: Idlib battle a climactic end to Syria rebellion? BEIRUT (AP) – The Syrian army, backed by allies Iran and Russia, is preparing for a military offensive to retake the country’s last major rebel stronghold -the province of Idlib.

The battle could bring an end to a seven-year-old uprising-turned-civil war, but at the cost of a humanitarian disaster on a scale yet unseen in the bloody conflict. Some 3 million civilians are trapped in Idlib, along with tens of thousands of opposition fighters, including hard-core militants. In recent days, Syrian and Russian warplanes stepped up bombings, targeting the southern edge of the province and signaling a slow start to the campaign.

Here’s a look at the issues involved: ___ ___

Unease, anger in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, Iran’s beating heart TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Just one shop among the thousands in Tehran’s sprawling Grand Bazaar can offer a tableau of the darkening mood descending across Iran as American sanctions again take hold. A salesman who wants to move to Europe for a better life shows off his pots and pans to a mother now struggling to pay for the gifts she wanted before her daughter’s marriage amid the collapse of Iran’s rial currency.

Another salesman loudly blames internal politics and corruption for the country’s woes. Muttered curses and even shouts against the government follow the journalists talking to them. While only a small moment in a nation of 80 million people, it shows the dangers ahead for the government of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

His signature nuclear deal with world powers now has become a noose around his neck that hard-liners gleefully tighten. Meanwhile, the sporadic and leaderless protests the nation has seen over its worsening economy threaten to roar back to life at any time. That has many expecting the worst is yet to come.

“It has become more difficult, but we need to lower our expectations,” said Kiana Ismaili, 26, shopping ahead of her wedding. ___ Suu Kyi says handling of Rohingya could have been better

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – In the face of global condemnation, Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday said that the handling of Rohingya Muslims, 700,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh amid a brutal military campaign, could have been better, but still defended security forces from charges of civilian atrocities. Myanmar’s army is accused of mass rape, killings and setting fire to thousands of homes in the aftermath of an August 2017 attack by Rohingya militants on security outposts. A report issued two weeks ago by a specially appointed U.N. human rights team recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar commanders for genocide and other crimes.

“There are of course ways in which with hindsight I think the situation could have been handled better,” Suu Kyi said, responding to questions during a one-on-one discussion at the World Economic Forum’s regional meeting in Hanoi. She still defended Myanmar security forces, saying that all groups in western Rakhine state had to be protected. “We have to be fair to all sides,” Suu Kyi said. “The rule of law must apply to everyone.

We cannot choose and pick.”

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