Man Who Yelled ‘Heil Hitler, Heil Trump’ At ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ Show Is ‘Ashamed’

The Maryland man who interrupted a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” Wednesday night to yell, “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!” has said he is now “so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted” with his own actions.

Anthony Derlunas, 58, apologized profusely Friday during an interview on his front porch with WBAL-TV 11, a local NBC affiliate.

He explained that he was frustrated with President Donald Trump and that his shout was intended to compare Trump to Adolf Hitler. A scene in the musical ― a wedding interrupted by czarist Russian police ― had reminded him of Trump. 

“He plays into the fears of the people, and it just came out wrong,” said an audibly upset Derlunas. He wouldn’t let the news station show his face.

The outburst was interpreted as anti-Semitic and caused a bit of panic in Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre, where some witnesses feared Derlunas was armed. His shout came less than three weeks after a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people.

“I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot,” audience member Rich Scherr told The Baltimore Sun. “I thought, ‘Here we go.’”

Although the show continued, some patrons were too disturbed to stay and filed out of the theater.

“I just want everybody to know I am sincerely sorry,” Derlunas said. “I opened my mouth and it was so wrong, and I know that now. In the moment, it was just my frustration. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am so ashamed. My heart goes out to all those that I ruined their night, to everybody that was affected by my stupidity.”

Derlunas told WBAL that he rarely drinks but had consumed several alcoholic beverages before his outburst.

Baltimore police were called to the theater shortly after 9:30 p.m. that night to escort him out. He has reportedly been banned for life.

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After trading barbs all year, Newsom and Trump meet at California fire zone

President Donald Trump talks with California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom.

President Donald Trump talks with California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom during a visit to a neighborhood destroyed by wildfires on Saturday. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo


Since the president announced his visit, there had been speculation as to whether he would be joined by the governor-elect, who campaigned as an alternative to Trumpism.


YUBA COUNTY, Calif. — Two weeks after decisively winning an election framed as a referendum on President Donald Trump, California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom met his foil for the first time on a smoke-stifled tarmac as the state burned.

Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown were on hand when Air Force One touched down at Beale Air Force Base north of Sacramento on Saturday, Trump’s second visit to California since assuming the presidency. The three shook hands and exchanged words, the silhouettes of trees at the end of the tarmac barely visible through a grey haze.

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From the moment Trump announced his visit, there was speculation as to whether he would be joined by Newsom, who has framed his imminent governorship as a counterweight to the president.

But as California reels from the deadliest wildfire in state history, Trump’s visit affords the incoming governor an ability to rise above the animosity and work with the federal government when the need arises – even as he faces pressure from liberals at home to do the opposite.

“A smart woman once told me that you campaign partisan and you govern bipartisan,” Dana Williamson, an adviser to Brown, told POLITICO. “It’s imperative that the victims of these horrible fires and the thousands of first-responders have the full attention of our federal, state and local leaders regardless of politics.”

A spokesman for Brown said he joined at Trump’s invitation.

Trump and the two California leaders later toured the town of Paradise along with Mayor Jody Jones and FEMA Director Brock Long.

“This is probably the worst disaster that I’ve seen in my career,” Long told Trump, according to The Sacramento Bee, one of the pool outlets.

It was the first time Trump has visited California in the past 13 months of deadly disasters the state has faced. He did not travel here after last year’s massive wildfire in Santa Rosa, the January mudslide in Montecito or the fatal Carr Fire in Redding this summer.

Trump and Newsom at times paused to speak to each other in front of the charred wreckage.Trump appeared to assent as Newsom spoke to him and gesticulated, and Trump repeatedly called Newsom by his first name during subsequent remarks to the media.

“Jerry and I have been speaking and Gavin and I have gotten to know each other and we’re all going to work together,” Trump said, flanked by Newsom and Brown. He offered Newsom a chance to speak, which the governor-elect declined.

Trump said they were “all on the same path” regarding the need “to work in the floor, the forest floor.”

“We’ll be working also with environmental groups,” he added. “I think everybody has seen the light.”

Joining Trump on Air Force One were two of his top allies from California’s diminishing Republican congressional delegation: newly elected minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who represents the area ravaged by flames.

After arriving at Beale Air Force Base, they left with Brown and Newsom by helicopter to the Paradise fire zone about 60 miles north.

As he sought to consolidate support for his leadership bid, McCarthy aligned himself closely with the president. In Paradise, Trump heralded their relationship, thanking McCarthy for “the support you’ve given in Washington.”

“Kevin, anything we can do, you know we’re here. Just bring it over to the office,” Trump said.

Newsom and Trump have long been locked in a dance of mutual enmity, each regularly invoking the other to galvanize their respective bases: Newsom positions himself as the champion of California’s alternative to Trumpism, while the president caricatures Newsom on the campaign trail as an extreme liberal who wants to open borders and distribute free health care.

Still, the social media reaction underscored the political peril, with detractors questioning Newsom’s decision and equating it to an act of betrayal.

Numerous users said Newsom and Brown should use the opportunity to demand that Trump apologize for his tweets faulting California for the severity of the fires or to challenge the accuracy of his claims. While some praised the show of unity, others said Newsom should have slipped the appearance to send a statement. More than a few mentioned that Newsom’s ex-wife Kimberly Guilfoyle is now dating Trump’s son Donald Jr. and wondered if the relationship would come up.

When Trump a week ago responded to the natural disaster ravaging California by deriding the state’s management and threatening to halt federal help, Newsom joined Democrats heaping on criticism. “Lives have been lost. Entire towns have been burned to the ground. Cars abandoned on the side of the road. People are being forced to flee their homes. This is not a time for partisanship,” he said.

The sight of Brown alongside Trump was also jarring, given how the current governor has sparred with Trump – particularly over the White House’s unraveling of policies intended to blunt the effects of climate change, a signature issue for Brown. Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in an interview set to air Sunday that while an altered climate contributed “a little bit” to voracious wildfires, forest management was the larger culprit, and he reiterated on Saturday that he believes better managing forests is the paramount issue.
While Trump is reviled by much of the California electorate, the area at the heart of the fire’s devastation supported the president in 2016. In the town of Paradise almost completely destroyed by the Camp Fire, Trump won 53 percent of votes in 2016, compared to 37 percent for Hillary Clinton.

LaMalfa, the Republican who represents the area, told McClatchy that he had invited Trump and echoed the president’s calls to better manage the trees that fires feed on.

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Facebook Fallout Ruptures Democrats’ Longtime Alliance With Silicon Valley

The alliance between Democrats and Silicon Valley has buckled and bent this year amid revelations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter allowed hateful speech, Russian propaganda and conservative-leaning “fake news” to flourish.

But those tensions burst into open warfare this past week after revelations that Facebook executives had withheld evidence of Russian activity on the platform for far longer than previously disclosed, while employing a Republican-linked opposition research firm to discredit critics and the billionaire George Soros, a major Democratic Party patron.

Democrats now face a painful reckoning with longtime friends in the tech industry, relationships girded by mutual interest in issues like immigration and cemented with millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

The news, reported in a New York Times investigation, elicited fury from Democrats, who demanded a Justice Department investigation into Facebook’s lobbying campaign, as well as new regulations that would cut to the core of Facebook and Google’s data-hungry business models.

It reinforced criticism from the left — by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, among others — that Amazon, Facebook and Google are unaccountable monopolies, digital analogues to the railroad trusts of the Gilded Age.

And it complicated life for tech’s remaining allies in the party, such as Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a voracious fund-raiser and a tech booster whose relationship with Facebook goes back almost a decade.

“I think 2016 exposed the dark side of technology,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a Bay Area Democrat. Widely considered friendly with the tech industry, Mr. Khanna criticized Facebook on Friday for its aggressive tactics, and said the company should “certainly fire the people who were in any way involved in the decision to peddle opposition research.”

The clash intensified on Friday when four Democratic senators wrote to the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to provide more details about Facebook’s lobbying activities. The lawmakers also raised a potentially more explosive issue: whether Facebook had ever used its own data and platform against critics.

“We need to know if Facebook, or any entity affiliated with or hired by Facebook, ever used any of the vast financial and data resources available to them to retaliate against their critics, including elected officials who were scrutinizing them,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, one of the Democrats who wrote the letter.

Many Democrats now believe that Facebook, Google and Twitter have been too slow to challenge the abusive speech and disinformation on their platforms. Some argue that the companies have bowed to misplaced Republican criticism about bias — President Trump falsely accused Google in August of playing down his State of the Union — in order to protect their businesses from political pressure.

“As more and more information comes out about how these guys operate, it’s becoming conventional wisdom among Democrats that there is a serious policy problem here,” said Matt Stoller, policy director at the Open Markets Institute, who has called for big tech platforms to be broken up and regulated.

“These companies are not credible,” Mr. Stoller added. “And it’s becoming clear to Democrats that they aren’t friends — they are the problem.”

Facebook cut ties with the opposition research firm this past week even as executives there denied acting improperly.

”Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, in an interview with CBS on Friday. “It was not what I was doing, nor was it the company’s strategy, to deflect, to deny or to hire P.R. firms to do things.”

But Facebook and other tech companies now face increasing criticism from within their own ranks. In an interview, Marc Benioff, the billionaire co-founder of the software company Salesforce and a major donor to Democratic causes, said his industry faced “a tension between trust and growth.”

“These companies are going to have to recognize that they have to change,” Mr. Benioff added. “And the C.E.O.s have to change. And if they don’t change, those C.E.O.s will be removed by boards and by shareholders.”

No Democrat embodies the tensions between tech and Washington like Mr. Schumer himself. In 2011, he joined Ms. Sandberg to announce the opening of the company’s first East Coast engineering office, in New York City, where he had worked to promote start-ups and other tech businesses.

In 2015, Ms. Sandberg co-hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Schumer in her Bay Area home, according to a Facebook employee briefed on the event. (The same trip featured a Schumer fund-raiser held by Bruce Sewell, then Apple’s general counsel, and attended by Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, according to an executive who declined to be named.).

By the end of the 2016 cycle, Mr. Schumer had raised more money from Facebook employees than any other Washington lawmaker. All told, Senate Democrats have benefited from over $3 million in political contributions from Facebook’s employees and founders over the years.

The technology industry — and Facebook in particular — was also a partner to Democrats in policy battles. Mr. Zuckerberg founded a Washington advocacy group to press for immigration reform, a top priority for Mr. Schumer and other Democratic leaders. More recently, tech companies like Netflix allied with Democrats in the fight over net neutrality rules.

Relations began to cool after the 2016 elections, when evidence mounted that Facebook and YouTube had become fertile ground for foreign interference and domestic misinformation, threatening not only the party’s values but also its electoral prospects.

Early last year, Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat, walked over to the Capitol to deliver a warning to Mr. Schumer, newly elected as Democratic minority leader.

Mr. Tester, the departing chief of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, looked at social media companies like Facebook and saw propaganda platforms that could cost his party the 2018 elections, according to two congressional aides. If Russian agents mounted a disinformation campaign like the one that had just helped elect Mr. Trump, he told Mr. Schumer, “we will lose every seat.”

Mr. Tester’s warning grabbed the attention of Mr. Schumer and other Democrats, who began to press Facebook and other social media companies to fix the problem.

Disinformation was a particular focus for Mr. Schumer, according to an aide with knowledge of the senator’s thinking. In March last year, Mr. Schumer summoned Adam Mosseri, then a vice president overseeing Facebook’s News Feed feature, for a briefing on how the company would limit the spread of bogus news and propaganda. He later sent two aides to Silicon Valley to keep pressure on executives at Facebook, Google and Twitter.

But as it became clear that the companies had understated their problems — and were moving slowly to fix them — the senator steered a middle course. When he and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader, unveiled the party’s “Better Deal” platform for the midterm elections, a proposal to attack “corporate monopolies” focused on airlines, beer companies and eyeglass makers.

The proposal, drafted in part by Mr. Schumer’s chief counsel, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, did not mention companies like Google and Facebook, which together dominate the search and digital advertising markets. (Ms. Slaughter, whom Mr. Schumer helped place on the Federal Trade Commission this spring, is now one of five commissioners investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent agreement over privacy practices.)

As recently as March, in an interview with Recode, Mr. Schumer called Facebook “a very positive force” overall and expressed concern that overly strict rules for tech companies would affect economic growth.

“I am more sympathetic because I think they’re in very difficult position and I worry about government regulation,” he said.

But in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that month, which showed how Facebook’s weak privacy controls had allowed a Trump-connected firm to collect information about tens of millions of people, some Democrats called for broader scrutiny.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia — a former telecommunications executive generally regarded as pro-business, and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — excoriated Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook this summer for failing to disclose major data-sharing arrangements with handset makers, including a Chinese company flagged by American intelligence agencies. At the time, Facebook and Twitter were also coming under attack by prominent Republicans, who said the companies’ new anti-abuse policies were discriminating against conservatives.

Mr. Warner’s growing focus on privacy concerns led to a clash with Mr. Schumer, who confronted Mr. Warner in July, The Times reported this week, warning him to back off Facebook.

Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer, said that the senator “worried that Facebook would bow to pressure from Republicans, who oppose the purging of the fake accounts and bots, and has urged Senator Warner and the Senate Intelligence Committee to make this the priority in their ongoing investigation of the company.”

Mr. Warner has continued to press Silicon Valley about privacy. In August, he issued a white paper outlining ways to rein in Big Tech, including passing privacy laws like those enacted in Europe this year, and making social media platforms liable for defamatory content.

“It’s important for Facebook to recognize that this isn’t a public relations problem — it’s a fundamental challenge for the platform and their business model,” Mr. Warner said.

Facebook previously signaled that it was ready to work with Mr. Warner and others in Congress on new regulation. Yet at the same time, Facebook turned to a conservative opposition research firm that sought to undermine detractors by publicizing financial links to Mr. Soros, a harsh critic of both Facebook and Google.

The revelations angered Democrats, who accused Facebook of tapping into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Mr. Soros — the very kind of propaganda the company has claimed to be battling. Facebook has denied that the effort was anti-Semitic.

“Their mantra has been, ‘We’re different, we’re special, we’re tech, all we do is good,’” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that oversees consumer protection and data security. “We’ve come to find out, very graphically, that they do a lot of harm, and in fact they cover up the harm they do.”

He added, “Tech is now like every other industry, in my view.”

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ATP Finals: Novak Djokovic beats Kevin Anderson to reach final

Novak Djokovic’s serving has been impeccable this week – he has not been broken at all in four matches

World number one Novak Djokovic put in a ruthless display to beat Kevin Anderson and reach the final of the ATP Finals in London.

The Serb will play Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s season finale after a 6-2 6-2 victory.

In what was a re-run of July’s Wimbledon final, Djokovic dominated in the same way this time to reach his seventh final of the year.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion has not dropped a set all week.

“I think it was the best match I’ve played so far this week,” Djokovic said after sealing victory in one hour and 16 minutes with a forehand that bounced off the top of the net.

“It came at the right time. Kevin has been playing great tennis this week.

“He lost serve in the first game which was big because he relies so much on his serve. I tried to win as many points on his second serve as possible. It worked very well.”

Djokovic serves up a masterclass

Widely seen as the best returner in the game, Djokovic has in fact been notable for his impeccable serving this week.

He is yet to be broken in four matches – facing just two break points – and it took Anderson until the sixth game of the opening set to win his first point on the Serb’s serve.

The South African won only seven points on the Djokovic serve in the entire match.

Where Anderson delivered big serves that averaged more than 130mph, Djokovic’s were about the 114mph mark but were all about accuracy, placement and setting up the next shot.

He beat Anderson 6-4 on aces – no mean feat against a player so known for racking up the aces that he has been donating money to charity for each one this week.

And his total of first-serve points won was a huge 85%.

Asked in his on-court interview if it was some of the best serving he has produced, Djokovic replied: “Possibly. It is not very common to serve more aces than Kevin. That stat helps the confidence.”

Anderson was making his debut at the ATP Finals, having enjoyed a successful year where he won two titles and reached a career-high ranking of five.

But he was outclassed and under pressure from the off, with Djokovic breaking in the opening game and creating two further break points in Anderson’s next service game.

While the South African held off that challenge when Djokovic hit wide, he gifted him another break in the seventh game when he sent a forehand long.

The second set followed the same pattern with Djokovic capitalising on an Anderson double-fault to establish another early break.

A crosscourt forehand earned the top seed a break for 4-1 and while Anderson limited the damage in the next game with a hold, Djokovic served out the match with style.

Next up, Zverev… again

Zverev beats Federer in ATP semi-final

Standing between Djokovic and a record-equalling sixth title at the season-ending tournament is 21-year-old Zverev, who beat 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer 7-5 7-6 (7-5) earlier on Saturday.

The pair have already met this week, with the German pushing the Serb hard in the opening set of their group match before seeming to run out of steam as Djokovic won 6-4 6-1.

“I played very well in the group stage against Sascha [Zverev] but I don’t think he was close to his best,” said Djokovic, who also beat Zverev in the Shanghai semi-finals in October.

“He had a great match today against Roger and he has been serving well, so it will be a similar approach as today, trying to get as many first serves back.

“It is the last match of the year for both of us, so let the better player win.”

Victory for Djokovic would cap a remarkable year in which he came back from elbow surgery to win Wimbledon and the US Open and returned to the top of the world rankings for the first time in two years.

Watch: Zverev booed after beating Federer

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Camp Fire Survivors Are Now Refugees In Their Own Country

CHICO, Calif. ― Last Thursday morning, Corey Gonzales woke to a pounding at his door.

When he opened the door, his neighbor was there, insisting he evacuate. Behind him, the sky was unfamiliar — black, yellow and orange. End-of-days stuff.

“We might be back, it won’t be that big a deal,” Gonzales, 28, told his fiancee as they packed a bag of clothes.

He thought he was only evacuating temporarily. Like so many residents of Paradise, California, who have been displaced by the ongoing Camp fire, he hoped that perhaps his family’s home could be saved. But as the hours passed, and refugees poured out of Paradise in cars and buses and on foot, it became clear that the wind-driven fire was moving faster and faster.

That night, Gonzales gathered his family. “We should start to be OK with the fact that maybe our stuff is gone,” he told them.

Now, just over a week later, the blaze that drove Gonzales out of Paradise has killed at least 71 people and become the most destructive fire in California history. More than 1,000 people are believed to be missing. And as the adrenaline of the evacuation has faded, the grim reality of indefinite displacement has set in.

Neighbors saved Vivian, too. Her next-door neighbors’ son woke up the 80-year-old Paradise resident and drove her, and her two cats, out of town before the fire hit. She believes she would not have survived the wind-driven, fast-moving flames if her neighbors hadn’t helped.

“Without them, I would have been ash,” she said. “I grabbed the cats, my toothbrush, my comb, and put on my sweats, and got in the car. That was it.”

A week later, she found out her house was gone.

Vivian now sleeps next to her two crated cats on a cot at the makeshift shelter at East Ave Church in Chico. Despite the grief of losing her house, she has found some gratitude in not being one of the hundreds of evacuees sick with the norovirus that’s plaguing the shelter and many others in town.

Libby Andresen, another woman in the East Ave Church shelter, has not been as lucky. She shares a mattress with her elderly mother, and told HuffPost that they’d been moved through the shelter twice to avoid getting the virus. By Thursday, a week after Andresen lost her Paradise home in the fire, she was bedridden and sick.

Before the medical team was able to provide assistance and a barrier, and before the National Guard sent in medical and quarantine tents on Friday morning, there was “no dignity for anyone,” Andresen said, as more and more people began throwing up and getting diarrhea, two of the norovirus symptoms. Volunteers had to help clean up, and later bleach, the floors that had been contaminated with human waste. Several evacuees have taken to wearing adult diapers as a precaution, as portable toilets become filthy and inaccessible.  

The entire city of Paradise is still blocked off to residents. Meanwhile, much of Butte County's wildlife is trying to surviv

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

The entire city of Paradise is still blocked off to residents. Meanwhile, much of Butte County’s wildlife is trying to survive as well.

Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, a community of senior residents in Paradise, was completely destroyed. Theresa, from the state's

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, a community of senior residents in Paradise, was completely destroyed. Theresa, from the state’s forestry and fire protection agency, assesses the damage.

More than 27,000 Paradise residents have been displaced. 

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

More than 27,000 Paradise residents have been displaced. 

A week ago, the East Ave Church shelter had a “summer camp feel,” one volunteer told HuffPost. But that sense of optimism has faded, as victims get sicker and more tired and come to terms with the loss of homes, possessions and loved ones.

On top of the loss of possessions and personal space, the physical illness and the lack of access to medical care, victims will face long-term trauma, a survivor of another major California fire told HuffPost.

The Camp fire victims “are not going to have a fucking clue how traumatized they are” for some time, Caz Tomaszewski said Tuesday. Tomaszewski lost his home in 2015 to the Butte fire in Calaveras County. He still experiences symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from trying to save his home.

“A fire fucks up a person’s head in way different ways than you’d expect,” he said. “Most people assume it’s losing all your shit and having to run for your life that does it… But more than that it’s losing all routines, all familiarity, all safe places, every place that is yours to be, and your community to boot.”

And, Tomaszewski said, “it’s being steeped in everybody else’s loss.”

Gonzales’ nephews and nieces, used to spending their days traipsing in the woods outside their home, are growing bored and confused. Libby wants to salvage her wind chimes. What Vivian wants more than anything is to take a shower in her own house.

Then she remembers it’s not there anymore.

For the many displaced residents, the physical struggle is far easier to deal with than the stress of waiting to learn about the state of their homes, or, worse, their loved ones.

Willy's dog, Misty, was hit by a car while they evacuated Paradise on Nov. 8.

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

Willy’s dog, Misty, was hit by a car while they evacuated Paradise on Nov. 8.

No mobile homes in the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park were saved in the Camp fire.

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

No mobile homes in the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park were saved in the Camp fire.

East Ave Church in Chico has become a makeshift evacuation center. 

Cayce Clifford for HuffPost

East Ave Church in Chico has become a makeshift evacuation center. 

The streets to Paradise and the neighboring towns are still closed to everyone except emergency personnel and members of the press, and thousands of evacuees eagerly await news of their homes as the county updates the addresses of destroyed property. Most homes and businesses in Paradise and Magalia are active crime scenes, law enforcement officers told HuffPost on Thursday. Officials from Cal Fire, the state department of forestry and fire protection, have been assessing the damage and searching for human remains.

“We got so, so lucky. No one was hurt or left behind,” Gonzales, who is now staying with family friends in Lincoln, about 90 minutes south of Chico, told HuffPost.

“But finally seeing [our home on the list of destroyed structures] was just stomach-sinking, throat-closing,” he said. “The house had this little archway that the kids had painted pink and purple last week… That’s the only thing that’s there now. There was so much house, and it’s so gone now. Not much can prepare you for that.”

Jenavieve Hatch, a HuffPost reporter from Sacramento, is reporting on the scene in California this week with photographer Cayce Clifford, talking to people affected by the Camp fire. Some of them, like Corey Gonzales and Caz Tomaszewski, are people she’s known for years. Some she’s meeting for the first time.

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Ocasio-Cortez backs campaign to primary fellow Democrats

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walks to member-elect briefings.

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats want her victory over Rep. Joe Crowley to be the beginning of a movement rather than just a one-off upset. | Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo


The incoming congresswoman endorses an effort by the group Justice Democrats to make the House Democratic Caucus more liberal and diverse by taking on incumbents.

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday threw her weight behind a new national campaign to mount primaries against incumbent Democrats deemed to be ideologically and demographically out of step with their districts.

The incoming star congresswoman from New York again put the Democratic establishment on notice that she and activist groups on the left aren’t content with a Democratic-controlled House: They are determined to move the party to the left.

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“Long story short, I need you to run for office,” Ocasio-Cortez said Saturday on a video conference call hosted by Justice Democrats, as the group launched a campaign dubbed “#OurTime.” Justice Democrats supported Ocasio-Cortez’s primary campaign against powerful Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).

“All Americans know money in politics is a huge problem, but unfortunately the way that we fix it is by demanding that our incumbents give it up or by running fierce campaigns ourselves,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “That’s really what we need to do to save this country. That’s just what it is.”

The incoming congresswoman’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, a co-founder of Justice Democrats, was blunter.

“We need new leaders, period,” he said on the call. “We gotta primary folks.”

The group said they want Democratic members of Congress to be representative of their diverse communities and support liberal policies like Medicare for all, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department, implementing a “Green New Deal,” and rejecting corporate PAC donations. On the campaign trail, Ocasio-Cortez talked about forming a “corporate-free caucus” as a means to push for reform. That type of group, if it forms, could turn out to be the left’s counterpart to the Freedom Caucus, which pushed Republican leadership to the right.

As for which Democrats they will target, the grass-roots organization welcomed its members to submit nominations of candidates and potential districts to target in 2020. Justice Democrats said it will prioritize women and diversity in their recruitment. All four incoming House members who were backed by Justice Democrats are women of color: Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ocasio-Cortez.

“If you’re a strong progressive leader in your community and committed to getting money out of politics, I want you to join me in Congress. I want you to run,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter Saturday

The 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats want her victory over Crowley to be the beginning of a movement rather than just a one-off upset. “We recruited and supported Ocasio-Cortez all the way to a historic victory and now we’re going to repeat the playbook,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement.

Tlaib a fellow Democratic socialist who had the support of Justice Democrats in her own competitive primary for Rep. John Conyers Jr.’s old seat, threw her support behind the new campaign as well.

“Help uplift women like us at all levels of government. We still need more of you to run with us. So get your squad together. We are waiting for you,” Tlaib said in a statement.

The grass-roots group expects to focus more on safe Democratic seats — as Crowley’s was — than on the swing districts, largely centered in the suburbs, that the party won en route to the House majority. That’s a slight shift in strategy after all of the group’s candidates, such as Kara Eastman in Nebraska, came up short in Republican-held congressional districts in 2018. Replacing safe Democratic incumbents with more progressives and diverse leaders, the thinking goes, could move the Overton window of what is and is not acceptable in the Democratic Party.

“There’s lots of blue districts in this country where communities want to support a new generation of diverse working class leaders who fight tirelessly for their voters and build a movement around big solutions to our country’s biggest problems,” said Rojas.

There are parallels between this effort and the Tea Party movement during Barack Obama’s presidency, when congressmen in solid Republican seats like former Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor faced primary challenges from the right.

Still, it is unusual for freshmen Democrats to throw their support behind an organization that is threatening to wage primaries against their new colleagues. And it’s unclear whether it could trigger a backlash from incumbent lawmakers who want to take advantage of their newfound majority to get things done, rather than sweating a primary challenge.

But Ocasio-Cortez has already made clear she’s looking to break the mold. During her first week in Washington, she joined a protest in Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office, supporting calls for a “Green New Deal”.

”It wasn’t a very polite move to do,” Chakrabarti said.

Ocasio-Cortez said at the sit-in that she was not there to protest Pelosi but to support the activists and their agenda.

“Should Leader Pelosi become the next speaker of the House, we need to tell her that we’ve got her back in showing and pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen,” she told them. “This is about unity. This is about solidarity.”

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Andrew Gillum Concedes to Ron DeSantis in Florida Governor’s Race

In Mr. Gillum, voters were presented in many ways with Mr. DeSantis’s opposite. As an elected official in Tallahassee since 23, he embraced liberal positions — like higher corporate tax rates, legalization of marijuana, tighter gun control and Medicare for all — that thrilled the Democratic Party’s activist base. But they also gave Mr. DeSantis more than enough material to portray him as a radical leftist out of step with a quintessential swing state.

But Mr. DeSantis struggled to gain momentum, and he trailed in the polls for much of the campaign after telling Fox News that Florida voters should not “monkey this up” by voting for Mr. Gillum. Critics saw the remark as a racist dog whistle, but Mr. DeSantis, who is white, said he had not intended it as a racial jab.

That was not the only racial episode during the campaign. In August, an Idaho-based white supremacist group placed racist robocalls to Florida voters in which a man claiming to be Mr. Gillum spoke in the exaggerated accent of a minstrel performer while monkeys screamed in the background. Both campaigns denounced the calls, which drew attention to Mr. DeSantis’s earlier gaffe.

The negative attention on Mr. DeSantis’s campaign lifted in the weeks before the election, when he named Susie Wiles, a veteran Republican operative, as his new campaign manager. He worked furiously to define Mr. Gillum as a proponent of “ideological radicalism” and a “George Soros left-wing agenda” who was out of step with the average Floridian.

And he campaigned on a promise to support military veterans, defend a scholarship program that pays private school tuition for low-income students and appoint “constitutionalist” judges to the State Supreme Court, a promise that echoed a similar one made on the campaign trail in 2016 by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Gillum said on Saturday that he remained committed to pushing for societal change — if not as the next governor, then as an advocate.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle,” he said. “This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government. We know that this fight continues in spite of the outcome of this election.”

At 39, he remains young enough to run again, for the governorship or some other office.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “There will be more to come.”

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