Residents begin returning home after Los Angeles wildfire

ACTON, Calif. Thousands of California residents were allowed to returned home on Monday after a deadly, destructive wildfire forced them from their houses in recent days as it raged through drought-parched canyons and foothills north of Los Angeles.About 300 miles (480 km) to the north, though, another fire ravaged a hilly area near the scenic coastal city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, churning through 16,100 acres (6,500 hectares) and destroying 20 homes and two outbuildings, authorities said.The so-called Soberanes Fire, burning in the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County, threatened 1,650 structures by Monday evening and was only 10 percent contained, the U.S. Forest Service said. Near Los Angeles, a beefed-up force of nearly 3,000 firefighters battled to outflank the blaze there - known as the Sand Fire - which has charred at least 50 square miles (130 square km) on the rugged northwestern fringes of the Angeles National Forest, authorities said.The Sand Fire erupted on Friday and also remained just 10 percent contained on Monday evening as crews backed by bulldozers labored to hack buffer lines around its perimeter. The majority of the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people who lived in the 10,000 homes that were evacuated earlier were allowed to return home on Monday evening, fire officials said. Fed by dense brush left desiccated by five years of drought, flames were initially stoked by triple-digit heat and extremely low humidity. Slightly cooler, moister weather and diminished winds were expected to assist firefighters on Monday."We have very little wind, we have an increase in relative humidity, and so it's favorable for us to get out and to put out hot spots and work on line construction," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Greg Hisel said. He said calmer winds were helping to keep the fire stationary. The Sand Fire blaze was concentrated near the town of Acton, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Los Angeles, as it cast a pall of smoke and soot over a wide area. Much of the Los Angeles basin was dusted with a thin layer of fine white ash from the fire on Saturday and Sunday. At least 18 dwellings were destroyed over the weekend, and authorities have reported one fatality, an unidentified man found on Saturday evening in a burned-out car parked in the driveway of a home. Among the properties to go up in flames was the landmark Sable Ranch, a popular location for television and movie shoots. The causes of the two fires were under investigation. They are among some 3,750 blazes large and small to have erupted across California since January, a higher-than-normal total, collectively scorching more than 200,000 acres (80,940 hectares), state fire officials said. The biggest so far was last month's Erskine Fire, which consumed 48,000 acres (19,429 hectares) northeast of Bakersfield, killing two people and destroying about 250 structures.By comparison, the 2003 Cedar Fire ranks as the biggest on record in the state. It blackened more than 273,000 acres (110,480 hectares), leveled 2,820 buildings and claimed 15 lives. (Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and Chris Michaud in New York, Brendan O'Brien and Milwaukee, and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Hogue)

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Turkey widens purges to police after coup bid, Europe warns on rule of law

ISTANBUL Turkey suspended thousands of police officers on Monday, widening a purge of the armed forces and judiciary after a failed military coup, and raising concern among European allies that it was abandoning the rule of law. A senior security official told Reuters 8,000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to Friday's coup bid by a faction in the army.Thirty regional governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants have also been dismissed, CNN Turk said.Thousands of members of the armed forces, from foot soldiers to commanders, were rounded up on Sunday, some shown in photographs stripped to their underpants and handcuffed on the floors of police buses and a sports hall. Several thousand prosecutors and judges have also been removed. More than 290 people were killed and around 1,400 wounded in the violence on Friday night, as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and fighter jets in a bid to seize power, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday told crowds of supporters, called to the streets by the government and by mosques across the country, that parliament must consider their demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters."We cannot ignore this demand," he told a chanting crowd outside his house in Istanbul late on Sunday. "In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen."He called on Turks to stay on the streets until Friday, and late into Sunday night his supporters thronged squares and streets, honking horns and waving flags. The bloodshed shocked the nation of almost 80 million, where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago, and shattered fragile confidence in the stability of a NATO member state already rocked by Islamic State suicide bombings and an insurgency by Kurdish militants. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the Turkish government on Monday against taking steps that would damage the constitutional order."We were the first... during that tragic night to say that the legitimate institutions needed to be protected," she told reporters on arrival at an EU foreign ministers meeting, which was also to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry."We are the ones saying today rule of law has to be protected in the country," she said in Brussels. "There is no excuse for any steps that take the country away from that."Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said it would be unacceptable for Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty, which it abolished in 2004. Abolishing capital punishment was a prerequisite for talks with Turkey on membership of the European Union, to which it still aspires.Turkey's pro-Kurdish HDP opposition, parliament's third largest party, said it would not support any government proposal to reintroduce the death penalty. The main CHP opposition said the response to the coup attempt must be conducted within the rule of law and that the plotters should face trial. "HEAVY BLOW" TO MILITARYTurkish security forces are still searching for some of the soldiers involved in the coup bid in various cities and rural areas but there is no risk of a renewed bid to seize power, a senior security official told Reuters.The official said Turkey's military command had been dealt "a heavy blow in terms of organisation" but was still functioning in coordination with the intelligence agency, police and the government. Some high-ranking military officials involved in the plot have fled abroad, he said. Erdogan has blamed U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the attempted power grab. He has long accused the cleric of trying to create a "parallel state" within the courts, police, armed forces and media.Gulen, in turn, has said the coup attempt may have been staged, casting it as an excuse for Erdogan to forge ahead with his purge of the cleric's supporters from state institutions.The swift rounding up of judges and others indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand, the EU commissioner dealing with Turkey's membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said."I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared," he said in Brussels.A Turkish official acknowledged that Gulen's followers in the armed forces had been under investigation for some time, but denied that an arrest list had been prepared in advance."In our assessment, this group acted out of a sense of emergency when they realized that they were under investigation. There was a list of people who were suspected of conspiring to stage a coup," the official said."There was no arrest list. There was a list of people suspected of planning a coup." (Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Ece Toksabay, Gulsen Solaker and Dasha Afanasieva in Ankara, Can Sezer, David Dolan, Ayla Jean Yackley and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Dallas police improvised to kill shooter with robot, chief says

DALLAS Dallas police improvised when they decided to use a robot typically deployed to inspect potential bombs to instead deliver one to kill a gunman who had slain five officers at a march against police violence, the city's police chief said on Monday.Police used a Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) Mark5A-1 robot equipped with explosives to kill black former U.S. Army Reserve soldier Micah Johnson, 25, after concluding during an hours-long standoff there was no safe way of taking him into custody, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said."They improvised this whole idea in about 15, 20 minutes," Brown told a news conference."I asked the question of how much (explosives) we were using, and I said ... 'Don't bring the building down.' But that was the extent of my guidance."The incident is believed to have been the first time U.S. police have killed a suspect this way, and some civil liberties advocates said it created a troubling precedent. But Brown said that when faced with a man who had already killed five officers, wounded nine other officers and told negotiators he wanted to kill even more, "This wasn't an ethical dilemma for me."Explosives found at Johnson's home suggested he had been plotting a larger assault, according to authorities who were still trying to understand a message he wrote in his own blood - the initials "R.B." - on a wall before being killed by the bomb-equipped robot.The attack on Thursday night came at the end of a demonstration decrying police shootings last week of two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and near St. Paul, Minnesota. Those were the latest in a series of high-profile killings of black men by police in cities including New York, Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago and Baltimore that have triggered protests. Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore on Monday recused himself from the investigation into last Tuesday's fatal shooting outside a convenience store of Alton Sterling, 37, by police officers responding to a call about a man with a gun. Moore said he has known the parents of one of the officers for many years and has worked with the officers on programs and projects. Hundreds of people were arrested over the weekend as new protests against the use of deadly force by police flared in U.S. cities. Scores of people were arrested in Baton Rouge on Sunday after authorities said violence during street demonstrations would not be tolerated.GUNMAN 'DISAPPOINTED' WITH MILITARYJohnson had served with the U.S. Army Reserve from 2009 to 2015 and was deployed to Afghanistan from November 2013 to July 2014. He had been disappointed in his experience in the military, his mother told TheBlaze.com in an interview shown online on Monday. "The military was not what Micah thought it would be," Delphine Johnson told The Blaze. "He was very disappointed. Very disappointed." She did not give details.The Dallas police chief, who is black, urged people upset about the conduct of police to consider joining his police force. "Become a part of that solution. Serve your communities," he said. "Get off that protest line and put an application in, and we'll put you in your neighborhood, and we will help you resolve some of the problems you're protesting about," he added. Brown said police will be reviewing more than 170 hours of video from police body cameras relating to Thursday's shootings as well as surveillance videos from surrounding businesses. Texas is known for its gun culture, and its laws allow gun owners to carry firearms in public. Some gun rights activists bring firearms to rallies as a political statement to express what they see as broad gun rights under state law and the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. Some did this at Thursday's march in Dallas.Seeing multiple people carrying rifles at the demonstration led police initially to believe they were under attack by multiple shooters."It is increasingly challenging when people have AR-15's (a type of rifle) slung over, and shootings occur in a crowd. And they begin running, and we don’t know if they are a shooter or not," Brown said. "We don’t know who the 'good guy' versus who the 'bad guy' is if everybody starts shooting."Rick Briscoe, legislative director of gun rights group Open Carry Texas, said Brown was "simply mistaken" in viewing armed civilians as a problem."It is really simple to tell a good guy from a bad guy," Briscoe said. "If the police officer comes on the situation and he says 'Police, put the gun down,' the good guy does. The bad guy probably continues doing what he was doing, or turns on the police officer."In St. Paul, 50 people remained in jail on Monday after they were arrested on Saturday night when they blocked a highway during protests. City Attorney Samuel Clark said his office would decide by late on Monday whether to bring charges against any of them. (Additonal reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry and Will Dunham)

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Spain's Almirall eyes Valeant skin drugs to boost dermatology

MADRID Spanish drugmaker Almirall, which is building up its business in skin treatments, could be interested in acquiring dermatology assets from Canada's Valeant Pharmaceuticals, the head of the Barcelona-based company said on Monday. Valeant is looking at divesting various products as it tries to reduce its massive debt load, with new CEO Joe Papa open to selling a range of assets if the price is right.Almirall Chief Executive Eduardo Sanchiz is leading a period of significant change at the company, following a shake-up of its drug portfolio, and building up the dermatology business further would fit with the Spanish group's strategy. "We're still in very initial stages but there are things that could interest us. We're studying the situation but waiting for more information," Sanchiz told Reuters. Sanchiz said he was confident Almirall had the capacity to make another acquisition this year, whether of a single drug, a range of products or a whole company. After selling its respiratory business to AstraZeneca two years ago, Almirall has shifted its main focus to dermatology. It acquired Poli Group in November for 365 million euros ($407 million) and Thermigen in January for $80 million. Both deals boosted its skin franchise, with Poli adding nail disorder products and Thermigen taking it into aesthetic dermatology. Industry analysts believe the Spanish group still has the financial firepower for further acquisitions. ($1 = 0.8977 euros) (Writing by Ben Hirschler, editing by David Evans)

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RPT-City of London eyes Norway option to save Europe ties

(Repeats June 27 story with no changes)* Norway pays into EU coffers, allows free movement of people* City hopes for similar deal, but faces hurdles* EU lawmakers say no chance of free access without costBy Huw Jones and John O'DonnellLONDON/FRANKFURT, June 27 The City of London is in talks with government officials as it seeks support for a Norway-style deal giving financial groups continued access to Europe after Britain's exit from the European Union.The push underscores scepticism that the status quo on trade with Europe can be held at little or no cost, a pledge made by some who campaigned for Britain to leave the bloc.But while there is a growing desire in London's financial centre for a trade model similar to Norway's - which is not a member of the EU but has close ties to it - those who campaigned for Britain's exit from the EU would find it hard to accept.It would mean Britain would have to pay into European Union coffers and adopt its laws, without a say, in return for a license to sell products such as financial services across the EU single market of 27 countries. Norway's deal includes the free movement of people."A lot of City institutions want continued access to the single market with passporting rights," Mark Boleat, City of London head of policy, referring to the right to operate unhindered across the single market."Clearly, one of the options is the Norway model, but whether that is acceptable to people who wanted Britain to leave is another matter," Boleat said, adding trade bodies and others are in "non-stop meetings" since Friday's referendum result."There will be discussion with officials. We are not going to be waiting for the autumn. There is a huge amount of work to do." Chris Cummings, chief executive of TheCityUK, which promotes Britain's financial sector, said industry bodies are trying to come up with a framework."None of the existing models work for the UK as the economy is too big. We are looking for a bespoke Brexit solution," Cummings said.Britain's decision to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves through financial markets, sending sterling to its lowest level against the dollar for 31 years and putting European bank shares on course for their biggest two-day fall on record.Political turmoil in London, with deep rifts in the main political parties, and Brussels, following the resignation last week of Britain's EU commissioner in charge of regulation, makes it hard it to know who to lobby, one industry source said.Prime Minister David Cameron, who will resign by October, said he would leave it to his successor to invoke Article 50, the two-year procedure governing how an EU member state leaves the bloc.Over the weekend, several EU officials said the UK needed to formally split right away - possibly at a Tuesday EU meeting. But officials of the Leave campaign - including former London mayor Boris Johnson - say they want to negotiate Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU before formally pulling the trigger to divorce.Johnson, a likely contender to replace Cameron, wrote in Monday's Daily Telegraph that "there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market".But European officials and observers say it is unlikely the EU would grant Britain access to the single market - key to allowing Britain trade goods and services in the EU - without London accepting the free movement of EU workers. Many Brexit backers complained the EU had allowed uncontrolled numbers of migrants to arrive from eastern Europe.Securing the City's open access to the EU market, which lobbyists say is worth 10 billion pounds ($13.22 billion) a year, is crucial for the financial hub of London - a central pillar of the country's economy. 'BREXIT IS NOT A JOKE'In Brussels, sentiment appears to be hardening.Roberto Gualtieri, the Italian head of the EU parliament's influential economic and monetary affairs committee, criticised what he called the "false promise" that Britain would keep access to the European market but without the costs."Brexit is not a joke," he said. "It will have consequences."Bernd Lucke, a German member of the European Parliament who founded the Alternative for Germany party as a eurosceptic group, said Britain would regret leaving the EU as the economic fallout became apparent."Britain can be in the single market but, like Liechtenstein or Norway, it has to accept the free movement of people," he said.Alexandria Carr, a financial lawyer with Mayer Brown, said new trading terms with the EU will not be completed by the end of the two-year timeframe within which Article 50 negotiations must be concluded.Greenland took several years to negotiate its withdrawal from the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1985 and transitional provisions were part of the package."The focus (for banks) for the immediate future should be on negotiating transitional provisions," said Carr, a former UK Treasury official.Two years could be too long for banks to wait for the outcome of uncertain negotiations."We expect banks to execute restructuring fairly soon based on 'worst case' analysis of the possible outcomes of the exit negotiations," said Simon Gleeson, a regulatory partner at law firm Clifford Chance. ($1 = 0.7567 pounds) (Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Frank Siebelt in Frankfurt, Writing By John O'Donnell; editing by Susan Thomas)

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