Months after Camp fire, 2 more victims are identified

LOS ANGELES — Butte County officials have released the names of two additional victims from last year’s deadly Camp fire — a 68-year-old grandmother and her adult granddaughter — bringing the number of those identified as having died in the massive blaze to 77.

The remains of Matilde Heffern and her granddaughter Ishka Heffern, 20, were positively identified Monday. Matilde’s daughter and Ishka’s mother, Christina Heffern, 40, also died in the fire that began Nov. 8.

The three women lived in the same house in Paradise, a sleepy town of 27,000 nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. Christina’s remains had previously been identified.

Of the 85 victims who died in the fire, all but eight have been positively identified and their next of kin have been notified, according to Butte County officials. Six have been tentatively identified, and two victims are still unknown.

— Los Angeles Times

Mueller witness gets FBI escort to Virginia to face porn charges

NEW YORK — A United Arab Emirates businessman who cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be driven from New York to Virginia under FBI escort to face child pornography charges.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak in Brooklyn granted the request from George Nader for a federal escort instead of being transported on a prisoners’ bus, as is standard practice. Nader’s lawyer said his client had a weak heart and might not otherwise survive the trip.

Nader, 60, was arrested Monday after arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and remains in custody. He is accused of having cellphone videos of children engaged in sexually-explicit conduct when he was stopped at a Washington airport in January 2018, after arriving on a flight from Dubai.

Nader spent the night at a federal lockup in Brooklyn. Defense attorney Christopher Clark said in court on Tuesday that Nader has a heart condition he called a “widow maker” and underwent open-heart surgery five weeks ago in Germany. He came to New York to consult with cardiologists, Clark said.

Pollak rejected Clark’s suggestion that Nader be released from custody to consult with his doctors while he’s watched by private security guards. One of the agents who will transport Nader to Virginia will be a trained paramedic.

“I’m confident you won’t try anything,” Pollak told Nader. “But if you were to try to escape, that would be a violation of the law and you will be arrested and put in jail.”

— Bloomberg News

Michigan governor, lawmakers announce legislation to protect LGBTQ rights

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan lawmakers kicked off LGBTQ Pride Month on Tuesday by announcing legislation to amend Michigan’s civil rights law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity.

Lawmakers and supportive groups say they are hopeful because, for the first, time, they have co-sponsors from each party and a governor who strongly supports the change.

In fact, the news conference was held in Whitmer’s ceremonial Capitol office, with the governor standing alongside groups such as Fair Michigan, Equality Michigan and Pride at Work Michigan.

“This is a group effort and it’s important for every one of us in Michigan,” said Whitmer, a Democrat.

Real opportunity and protection for all citizens is crucial to make Michigan a thriving state, she said.

“In the year 2019, nobody should be fired from their job or evicted from their home based on who they love or how they identify,” Whitmer said.

Efforts in recent years to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act to protect sexual orientation and sexual identify have been stalled in the Republican-controlled Legislature by insistence from some lawmakers that such a change be tied to a law that sets out religious exemptions — such as a baker who doesn’t want to prepare a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing religious beliefs.

In January, Whitmer signed an executive directive to strengthen prohibitions against LGBTQ discrimination in state employment, contracting and provision of services.

— Detroit Free Press

5 died of overdoses in 15 hours, Hartford police say

HARTFORD, Conn. — Hartford police said Tuesday that five people died from overdoses in the city within a 15-hour period, and that the number of overdose deaths this year already exceeds last year’s total by 16.

Police suspect fentanyl caused the overdose deaths, Lt. Paul Cicero said. The powerful, synthetic opioid is often mixed with other illegal drugs in powder and pill form, so people don’t always realize what they are ingesting. A few weeks ago, two people died after taking pills they thought were a designer drug like ecstasy, he said.

The capital city has already topped last year’s rate of fatal overdoses with 38 deaths, Cicero said. In 2018, 22 people died of overdoses.

Last year, national health officials reported that opioid deaths were starting to plateau, and Connecticut’s Department of Health said in February that emergency visits for opioid overdoses had stabilized in 2018.

Connecticut also saw 21 fewer drug deaths last year, from 1,038 in 2017 to 1,017 in 2018.

Fentanyl is a painkiller like morphine but 50-100% more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Police also see the drug mixed with heroin and crack cocaine, Cicero said.

— The Hartford Courant