Roy Clark, country singer, Hee Haw star, has died

Roy Clark, country singer, \Hee Haw\ star, has died
Hee Haw star Roy Clark dead at 85
Country star Roy Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show "Hee Haw" for nearly a quarter century and was known for such hits as "Yesterday When I was Young" and "Honeymoon Feeling," has died. He was 85.

Publicist Jeremy Westby said Clark died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.

Clark was guest host on The Tonight Show several times in the 1960s and 1970s when it was rare for a country performer to land such a role. His fans included not just musicians, but baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial — a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.

Clark was "Hee Haw" host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. The country music and comedy show's last episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter.

Clark was guest host on The Tonight Show several times in the 1960s and 1970s when it was rare for a country performer to land such a role. His fans included not just musicians, but baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial — a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.

"'Hee Haw' won't go away. It brings a smile to too many faces," he said in 2004, when the show was distributed on VHS and DVD for the first time.

Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

His hits included "The Tips of My Fingers" (1963), "Yesterday When I Was Young" (1969), "Come Live With Me" (1973) and "Honeymoon Feeling" (1974). He was also known for his instrumental versions of "Malaguena," on 12-string guitar, and "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

His hits included “The Tips of My Fingers” (1963), “Yesterday When I Was Young” (1969), “Come Live With Me” (1973) and “Honeymoon Feeling” (1974). He was also known for his instrumental versions of “Malaguena,” on 12-string guitar, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was "just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list."

His hits included “The Tips of My Fingers” (1963), “Yesterday When I Was Young” (1969), “Come Live With Me” (1973) and “Honeymoon Feeling” (1974). He was also known for his instrumental versions of “Malaguena,” on 12-string guitar, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

In his 1994 autobiography, "My Life in Spite of Myself," he said "Yesterday, When I Was Young" had "opened a lot of people's eyes not only to what I could do but to the whole fertile and still largely untapped field of country music, from the Glen Campbells and the Kenny Rogerses, right on through to the Garth Brookses and Vince Gills."

Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

Clark was guest host on "The Tonight Show" several times in the 1960s and 1970s when it was rare for a country performer to land such a role. His fans included not just musicians, but baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by "Yesterday When I Was Young" and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial — a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.

Clark and Owens worked together for years, but they had very different feelings about "Hee Haw." Owens, who left the show in 1986, later referred to it as a "cartoon donkey," one he endured for "that big paycheque." Clark told The Associated Press in 2004 that "Hee Haw" was like a family reunion.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was “just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list.”

"We became a part of the family. The viewers were sort of part owners of the show. They identified with these clowns, and we had good music."

A feel-good tale of a homeless man using his last $20 to help a stranded New Jersey woman buy gas was actually a complete lie, manufactured to get strangers to donate more than $400,000 dollars to help the down-and-out good Samaritan, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced criminal charges against the couple who told the story to newspapers and television stations along with the homeless man who conspired with them to tell the story.

Country star Roy Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show Hee Haw for nearly a quarter century and was known for such hits as “Yesterday When I was Young” and “Honeymoon Feeling,” has died. He was 85.

He said the money, donated to the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, will be refunded to people who saw the story and contributed to him through a GoFundMe page set up by the couple, Mark D'Amico and Katelyn McClure.

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1960, he got the chance to front the band of country singer Wanda Jackson. He also performed regularly in Las Vegas. He got his first recording contract, with Capitol Records, in 1962.

"The entire campaign was predicated on a lie," Coffina said. "It was fictitious and illegal and there are consequences."

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1960, he got the chance to front the band of country singer Wanda Jackson. He also performed regularly in Las Vegas. He got his first recording contract, with Capitol Records, in 1962.

Bobbitt was arrested Wednesday night by U.S. marshals in Philadelphia and remained in custody Thursday on probation detainers and a $50,000 bond. A message was left with a previous attorney of Bobbitt's.

He was a touring artist as late as the 2000s. Over the years, he played at venues around the world: Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, the Grand Palace in Brussels and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow.

D'Amico and McClure surrendered to authorities Wednesday night and were released. Their attorney said they have no comment. All were charged with theft by deception.

He was a touring artist as late as the 2000s. Over the years, he played at venues around the world: Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, the Grand Palace in Brussels and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow.

Investigators searched the Florence, New Jersey, home of D'Amico and McClure in September after questions arose about what happened to the money they raised for Bobbitt. The couple claimed he helped McClure get gas after she became stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia last year.

Clark was Hee Haw host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. The country music and comedy show’s last episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter.

McClure said that in an attempt to thank Bobbitt for his help, she set up the fundraising page, which brought in more than $400,000 and landed them in the national news.

Coffina said almost no part of the tale was true. McClure didn't run out of gas. Bobbitt didn't spot her in trouble and give her money.

Less than an hour after the couple set up the page to solicit donations, McClure sent a text message to a friend acknowledging the story was "completely made up."

Prosecutors began investigating after Bobbitt claimed he wasn't getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.

It's not exactly clear what happened with the money, though Bobbitt's attorney has said it's all gone.

“Hee Haw won’t go away. It brings a smile to too many faces,” he said in 2004, when the show was distributed on VHS and DVD for the first time.

The man who killed John Lennon told a parole board he feels "more and more shame" every year for gunning down the former Beatle outside his Manhattan apartment in 1980.

Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia, and received his first guitar on his 14th Christmas. He was playing in his father’s square dance band at age 15.

"Thirty years ago I couldn't say I felt shame and I know what shame is now," Mark David Chapman said. "It's where you cover your face, you don't want to, you know, ask for anything."

Chapman expressed his enduring remorse for killing Lennon at his 10th parole board hearing in August at Wende Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence. The board denied his release that month. New York prison officials released a transcript of the hearing on Thursday.

“We became a part of the family. The viewers were sort of part owners of the show. They identified with these clowns, and we had good music.”

Chapman, 63, shot and killed Lennon on the night of Dec. 8, 1980, hours after having the former Beatle autographed an album for him.

Chapman told parole board members he still thinks about how Lennon was "incredible" to him earlier that day. He said he had been going through an internal "tug of war" of whether to go ahead with the shooting.

Publicist Jeremy Westby said Clark died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.

"I was too far in," Chapman told the board. "I do remember having the thought of, 'Hey, you have got the album now. Look at this, he signed it, just go home.' But there was no way I was just going to go home."

As in previous parole hearings, Chapman went into detail about the shooting and his regret over the "senseless" act. Chapman claimed he sought notoriety and felt no animosity for Lennon, even though he loaded his gun with more lethal hollow-point bullets.

He appeared on Jimmy Dean’s TV show Town and Country Time and took over the show when Dean left.

"I secured those bullets to make sure he would be dead," he said. "It was immediately after the crime that I was concerned that he did not suffer."

Chapman described working at the prison cleaning, painting and stripping wax from the floors. He said he left his quest for notoriety behind long ago and is devoted to promoting the transformative power of Jesus.

Clark was the Hee Haw host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. The country music and comedy shows last episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter.

In its decision, the state Board of Parole said releasing Chapman would not only "tend to mitigate the seriousness of your crime," but also would endanger public safety because someone might try to harm him out of anger, revenge or to gain notoriety.

Medical staff say that conjoined twins from Bhutan who were separated at an Australian hospital last week have been healing well, showing their cheeky side, and have become impossible to keep apart.

His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

Joe Crameri, the head of pediatric surgery at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital, told reporters Thursday there have been a few bumps along the road but that the 15-month-old girls, Nima and Dawa, are making good progress.

The girls were joined from the lower chest to just above the pelvis and shared a liver. They were separated during a delicate operation that lasted almost six hours. A major challenge had been to reconstruct their abdomens.

"The girls are getting back to a more normal life, so they're back to eating and they're starting to move around," he told reporters. "The area that we've repaired on their tummy wall seems to be holding up with the strain quite nicely. So, we're very happy, and especially Mum is very happy."

"We try and have them a little bit apart, but they manage to sort of bum shuffle back together and have their legs intertwined, always," she said. "So, we did initially try and have them in two beds but they didn't like that at all so they're in the one bed together and just happy, playing with one another, and it's actually beautiful to see."

"They're happy, clapping, laughing, smiling at us all and, at times, telling us to go away when they've had enough," she said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union.

Less than a day after May won her Cabinet's grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May's Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.

The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.

A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making "the right choices, not the easy ones" and urged lawmakers to support the deal "in the national interest." She said the deal was best for business as it would help maintain easy trade with Europe and would reduce uncertainty.

But she has been weakened by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Hours after he sat in the meeting that approved the deal, Raab said he "cannot in good conscience" support it.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is "no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honours the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn't."

In another blow to May, leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no-confidence in May, saying the Brexit deal was "worse than anticipated."

Standing outside Parliament Rees-Mogg said the deal agreed "is not Brexit" because it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, potentially for an indefinite period.

Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 per cent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to the party's 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which oversees leadership votes.

Only committee chairman Graham Brady knows for sure how many missives have been sent, but Rees-Mogg's letter is likely to spur others to do the same.

"A coup is when you use illegitimate processes," he said. "This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party."

He called for May to be replaced by a more firmly pro-Brexit politician, naming ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Raab as potential successors.

If a confidence vote is held and May loses, it would trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The winner would become prime minister without the need for a national election.

The turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound, which was trading 1.5 per cent lower at $1.2797 as investors fretted that Britain could potentially crash out of the EU next March, a development that could see tariffs placed on British exports, border checks reinstalled, and restrictions imposed travellers and workers — a potentially toxic combination for businesses.

A growing worry as Brexit day approaches is that companies will enact contingency plans that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods, and relocating production overseas.

May and her supporters say the alternatives to her deal — leaving the trading bloc without a deal or a second vote on Brexit — are not realistic options.

"The choice is clear," May told lawmakers. "We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated — this deal."

News that a deal had been struck after a year and a half of negotiations was welcomed in Brussels and EU chief Donald Tusk called for a summit of leaders on Nov. 25 so they can rubber-stamp the agreement.

"All I can say is that the EU is prepared for a final deal with the U.K. in November," he said. "We are also prepared for a no deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario."

The deal needs approval from Britain's Parliament before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29 — and even if May survives as leader, the chances of that appear to be shrinking.

Her Conservative government doesn't have enough lawmakers of its own to get a majority, and relies on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which says it will not back the deal.

"We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice."

Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should withdraw the "half-baked" Brexit deal and that Parliament "cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal."

Ian Blackford, who heads the Scottish National Party in Parliament, said the deal was "dead on arrival" and urged May to "stop the clock and go back to Brussels."

An EU official cautioned that Britain was unlikely to get a better deal. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the process is still ongoing, the official said both sides "exhausted our margin of manoeuvr under our respective mandates."

The deal requires the consent of the European Parliament as well. Its chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, welcomed the draft deal as "the best agreement we could obtain." Verhofstadt predicted the EU Parliament could approve the deal at the start of next year, well in time for Brexit day.

South Korea exploded a front-line guard post Thursday, sending plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky above the border with North Korea, in the most dramatic scene to date in the rivals' efforts to reduce animosities that sparked last year's fears of war.

Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of agreements signed in September during a meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.

On Thursday, South Korea's military invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border area of Cheorwon. The journalists were asked to stay hundreds of meters (yards) away as black smoke enveloped the hilly border area. They later watched soldiers and other workers bulldoze another guard post.

While most of the South Korean guard posts are being destroyed with construction equipment for environmental and safety reasons, dynamite was used for the first structure because of its location on a high hill where it was difficult employ excavators, the Defence Ministry said.

The guard posts are inside the 248-kilometre-long, 4-kilometre-wide border called the Demilitarized Zone. Unlike its name, it's the world's most heavily fortified border with an estimated 2 million land mines planted in and near the zone. The area has been the site of violence and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula, and civilians need special government approval to enter the zone.

The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month before jointly verifying the destruction next month. South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine-guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts.

Creating fire buffers between housing and dry brush, burying spark-prone power lines and lighting more controlled burns to keep vegetation in check could give people a better chance of surviving wildfires, according to experts searching for ways to reduce growing death tolls from increasingly severe blazes in California and across the U.S. West.

Western wildfires have grown ever more lethal, a grim reality that's been driven by more housing developments sprawling into the most fire-prone grasslands and brushy canyons, experts say. Many of the ranchers and farmers who once managed those landscapes are gone, leaving neglected terrain that has grown thick with vegetation that can explode into flames when sparked.

That's left communities ripe for tragedy as whipping winds and recurring drought that's characteristic of climate change stoke wildfires like the ones still raging in Northern and Southern California that have killed at least 51 people in recent days.

Hundreds of thousands of people were told to leave their homes ahead of the blazes to get out of harm's way. Yet some experts say there's been an over-reliance on evacuation and too little attention paid to making communities safe, as well as not enough money for controlled burns and other preventive measures.

Search crews found many victims inside their vehicles, or just next to them, overcome by flames, heat and smoke as they tried to flee. Survivors of the blaze that nearly obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise and nearby communities spoke of having just minutes to escape and narrow roads made impassable by flames and traffic jams.

"There are … so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion … the traffic jams," said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension program.

As deadly urban wildfires become more common, officials should also consider establishing "local retreat zones, local safety zones" in communities where residents can ride out the deadly firestorms if escape seems impossible, Moritz said.

That could be a community centre, built or retrofitted to better withstand wildfires, which can exceed 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving little trace of ordinary homes.

Such fire protection measures in buildings can include sprinklers, fire- and heat-resistant walls and roofs, and barriers that keep sparks out of chimneys and other openings, according to the International Code Council, a non-profit that helps develop building codes used widely in the United States.

Creating more buffers — whether parks, golf courses or irrigated agriculture, like the vineyards that helped keep 2017 wildfires in California's wine country from spreading into even more towns — around new and old housing developments would help stave off wildfires threatening to overrun cities and towns.

So would burying electric power lines, which can spark and fail in the high winds that drive many of California's fiercest fires, said Jon Keeley, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in California.

Sparks from electrical utility equipment are suspects in the Northern California wildfire that consumed Paradise, destroying some 7,700 homes, and other deadly blazes in the state.

A proven method to prevent wildfires from getting out of control is the use of controlled burns. By intentionally lighting fires, property owners or land managers can remove dead and low-lying trees and brush — material that otherwise accumulates and can accelerate the growth of fires.

In the mid-20th century, California ranchers burned hundreds of thousands of acres annually to manage their lands, said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council.

That was phased out in the 1980s after California's fire management agency stepped in to take over the burns, and by the last decade, the amount of acreage being treated had dropped to less than 10,000 acres annually, Quinn-Davidson said.

Former agricultural land that rings many towns in the state became overgrown, even as housing developments pushed deeper into those rural areas. That was the situation in the Northern California town of Redding leading up to a fire that began in July and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. It was blamed for eight deaths.

"You get these growing cities pushing out — housing developments going right up into brush and wooded areas. One ignition on a bad day, and all that is threatened," Quinn-Davidson said. "These fires are tragic, and they're telling us this is urgent. We can't sit on our hands."

President Donald Trump's administration is trying to fend off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Jim Acosta's White House "hard pass."

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly heard arguments Wednesday afternoon from lawyers representing CNN and the Justice Department. The news network is seeking an immediate restraining order that would force the White House to return Acosta's press credentials — which grant reporters as-needed access to the 18-acre complex.

Acosta has repeatedly clashed with Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in briefings over the last two years. But the dynamic devolved into a near-shouting match during a combative press conference last week following midterm elections in which Republicans lost control of the House.

Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn't want to hear anything more from him. Trump called Acosta a "rude, terrible person."

The CNN lawsuit calls the revocation "an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President's point of view."

The Associated Press joined with a group of 12 other news organizations, including Fox News, in filing an amicus brief Wednesday in support of CNN.

"Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized," said a statement by Fox News President Jay Wallace. "While we don't condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people."

On Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer James Burnham argued that Acosta was guilty of "inappropriate grandstanding" and deserved to lose his access over "his refusal to comply with the general standards of a press conference."

Burnham also pointed out that CNN has dozens of other staffers with White House credentials, so excluding Acosta would not harm the network's coverage.

The network's lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, contended that Acosta was being singled out for his body of work, not his alleged rudeness during a press conference.

"The White House has made very clear that they don't like the content of the reporting by CNN and Jim Acosta," Boutrous said. "Rudeness really is a code word for 'I don't like you being an aggressive reporter.'"

Michael Avenatti, who skyrocketed to fame as a critic of President Donald Trump and the lawyer for porn actress Stormy Daniels, was arrested Wednesday and booked on a felony domestic violence charge, Los Angeles police said.

The alleged victim in the case had visible injuries, according to Officer Tony Im, a police spokesman. But Avenatti slammed the allegation as "completely bogus" and "fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation" in a statement released by his law firm.

Avenatti, who has said he's mulling a 2020 presidential run, posted $50,000 bail and was released about four hours after he was arrested Wednesday on the same block where he lives in a skyscraper apartment.

Police declined to provide any details about the alleged victim, including that person's relationship to Avenatti.

As he left the police station Wednesday, Avenatti said he had never hit a woman and said he's been an advocate for women's rights his entire career.

"I wish to thank the hard working men and woman of the LAPD for their professionalism and their work today. They had no option in light of the allegations," Avenatti said. "I am looking forward to a full investigation, at which point I am confident that I will be fully exonerated."

Avenatti became famous as Daniels' lawyer and pursued the president and those close to him relentlessly for months, taunting Trump in interviews and baiting him and his lawyers in tweets.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and has sued to invalidate the confidentiality agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election that prevents her discussing it. She also sued Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, alleging defamation.

The Vermont Democratic Party cancelled events planned for Friday and Saturday, where Avenatti was scheduled to speak, and is refunding ticket sales.

Sheriff's deputies knew him as a cop's cop, one who would "go to the ends of the earth" to solve a crime. To family and friends, Ron Helus was a devoted husband and father who loved to go fly fishing with his son.

On Thursday, Helus will be hailed as a hero — a man who courageously sacrificed his own life to save others' when he raced into a Southern California bar crackling with gunfire and immediately engaged the shooter in a firefight.

The act would take Helus' life when he was struck by several bullets, but it would also allow others a few precious moments to escape. In all, 13 people died, including the gunman, who killed himself.

"There's no doubt that they saved lives by going in there," former Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, who retired last Friday, said of the actions of Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer who followed him through the door.

Helus' funeral was scheduled for noon at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, followed by burial at a nearby cemetery. Gov. Jerry Brown was among those expected to attend.

Helus, 54, was a 29-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department who had planned to retire next year.

As the scope of a deadly Northern California wildfire set in, the sheriff said more than 450 people had now been assigned to comb through the charred remains in search for more bodies. The blaze has killed at least 56 people and authorities say 130 are unaccounted for.

Many of the missing are elderly and from Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 to the north of Paradise.

The one major roadway that runs through the mostly residential town is dotted with gas stations, a pizza shop, a hair salon and Chinese restaurant and convenience stores. There is no Main Street or town centre. Resident Johnny Pohmagevich says a Rite Aid on the main road is as much of a centre as the town has.

"When I say downtown I mean Paradise," said Pohmagevich, who opted to stay in Magalia even as fire closed in.

Pohmagevich, an 18-year Magalia resident who works at Timber Ridge Real Estate and lives just up the road from many burned homes, said he stayed to protect his employer's property from looters and to prepare some cabins and mobile homes so business tenants can live if they come back.

A week after the deadly Camp Fire struck, police teams drive around Magalia searching for those still in their homes, checking if they need any food and water. Crews from Pacific Gas & Electric are also in the area. With the death toll at 56, it is the deadliest wildfire in a century . There were also three fatalities from separate blazes in Southern California.

As officials raised the loss of homes to nearly 8,800 Wednesday, Sheriff Kory Honea said the task of recovering remains had become so vast that his office brought in another 287 searchers Wednesday, including National Guard troops, bringing the total number of searchers to 461 plus 22 cadaver dogs. He said a rapid-DNA assessment system was expected to be in place soon to speed up identifications of the dead, though officials have tentatively identified 47 of the 56.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined California Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday on a visit to the nearby levelled town of Paradise, telling reporters it was the worst fire devastation he had ever seen.

"Now is not the time to point fingers," Zinke said. "There are lots of reasons these catastrophic fires are happening." He cited warmer temperatures, dead trees and the poor forest management.

Brown, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump's policies, said he spoke with Trump, who pledged federal assistance.

"This is so devastating that I don't really have the words to describe it," Brown said, saying officials would need to learn how to better prevent fires from becoming so deadly .

It will take years to rebuild, if people decide that's what should be done, said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Like white smoke from the Vatican announcing a new pope, the signal from Britain's Cabinet table says: We have a decision.

After a year and a half of negotiating with the European Union — and fighting with itself — the U.K. government on Wednesday backed a deal to allow Britain's orderly exit from the bloc, and paint the outlines of future relations.

Prime Minister Theresa May's fractious Conservative government agreed on a deal that solves the key outstanding issue — how to ensure a frictionless border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit. The "backstop" plan involves keeping the U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent trade treaty is worked out.

It's a breakthrough, but the path to Brexit day — just over four months away on March 29 — remains rocky.

May is due to update Parliament on Thursday on what has been agreed, while Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will likely head to Brussels to meet with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

Barnier declared there has been "decisive progress" toward a deal — the phrase that allows EU leaders to call a special summit to approve the deal. They have penciled in a meeting for Nov. 25.

The deal consists of two parts: a legally binding withdrawal agreement — which includes the border backstop — and a looser framework for future relations. The two sides have given themselves a transition period until the end of 2020 to work out the details of future trade ties.

Once the EU has signed off on it, the deal also must be approved by the European and British parliaments

May hopes to get it passed by U.K. lawmakers before Christmas. Business groups warn that most U.K. companies will implement Brexit contingency plans — cutting jobs, stockpiling goods, relocating production — if there isn't clarity by then about the terms of Brexit.

But she faces an uphill battle. May's Conservative Party doesn't hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, and relies on 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to win votes. But the DUP says it will reject any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the U.K.

Several dozen pro-Brexit Conservatives have vowed to oppose any arrangement that keeps Britain in a customs union, and tied to EU trade rules, indefinitely.

The main opposition Labour Party also says it will oppose any deal that doesn't offer the same benefits Britain currently has as a member of the EU's single market and customs union.

May is calculating that, faced with the prospect of a chaotic "no-deal" exit — complete with financial turmoil, gridlock at U.K. ports and shortages of essential goods — most Conservatives and some opposition lawmakers will crumble and support the deal.

Lawmakers could try to send the government back to the negotiating table with the EU, though there's no simple mechanism to make that happen. They could defeat the government in a no-confidence vote in an attempt to trigger a national election.

Lawmakers could even vote for a new referendum on EU membership, though it seems unlikely there would be time to hold one before the U.K.'s scheduled departure date. The U.K. will cease to be an EU member on March 29 — deal or no deal.

Iain Begg, a professor at the London School of Economics' European Institute, said rejection of a deal would trigger a major political crisis because Britain's patchwork constitution offers no "prescribed way out of that dilemma."

He said in that case, "we really are into a period of great uncertainty about what happens next. I think nobody can know how it would unfold."