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  • We’ve heard this song before, but it seems genuine that KISS’ upcoming “End of the Road World Tour” will be exactly that. The band announced the decision to pack up the pyro after a performance on Wednesday’s finale of “America’s Got Talent.” 'All that we have built and all that we have conquered over the past four decades could never have happened without the millions of people worldwide who've filled clubs, arenas and stadiums over those years. This will be the ultimate celebration for those who've seen us and a last chance for those who haven't. KISS Army, we're saying goodbye on our final tour with our biggest show yet and we'll go out the same way we came in... Unapologetic and Unstoppable,' the band said in a statement. >> Read more trending news  KISS hasn’t yet announced dates for this final run, but will update fans in the next few weeks on www.kissonline.com.  In 2000-01, KISS embarked on “The Farewell Tour,” which, in fairness, turned out to be the final tour with the original lineup of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. But the band returned in 2003 for a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith and has remained steady road warriors. The band’s current members are Stanley, Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Read more here.
  • Janelle Ortiz dreamed of becoming famous. Melissa Ramirez imagined a day when the street wasn't home and drugs not her preoccupation. Claudine Luera just ached to see her children do better than she had. All of these women, bound by difficulties in life, met an eerily similar death: They were shot in the head and left on rural Texas roadsides, allegedly by a Border Patrol agent who has been described as a serial killer. Relatives of the dead are now grieving for loved ones who, they say, were more than the troubles they endured. 'They had families. They were loved. They were someone. They were human,' said Colette Mireles, a sister of Luera. The suspect's motive remains unknown. Authorities said the three women and a fourth woman, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, whose name was released Wednesday, were sex workers, and that Border Patrol supervisor Juan David Ortiz knew some of them. Each lived a life littered with hardship. Gracie Perez remembered her sister-in-law, 29-year-old Ramirez, telling her she was raped when she was 13. She dropped out of high school, experienced depression and eventually began living on the streets. Her five children were left in the care of others. She struggled with a drug habit. Despite all of that, her relatives remembered someone always trying to make others laugh. Ramirez liked pulling up funny videos on YouTube, devouring whatever food was before her and enjoying TV at full blast as she fell asleep on the couch. Perez said her sister-in-law frequently returned home to her mother's house, where two of her children live, typically staying a few days, vowing to get off drugs and improve her life before returning to the streets. 'She wanted to be a better mom, a better person,' Perez said. 'She didn't want to be running the streets anymore.' Janelle Ortiz, 28, envisioned a future where her personality and gift for talking with nearly anyone transformed her into someone famous. Rosenda Ortiz, her younger sister, remembered the difficult childhood they shared, with them constantly being thrust into new homes. She said her sister was strong and had a big heart, always asking what others needed. Rosenda Ortiz hoped that one day she'd be able to get a home of her own and invite her sister to come live with her. 'He was not known as a prostitute or a sex worker,' she said, using pronouns she knows her transgender sister would have chided her for. 'He was just a human being like the other victims. He was just living his life.' Mireles last talked to her 42-year-old sister two days before her body was found. She was 'over the moon' upon hearing that one of her sons was doing well in school and was already ironing out plans for prom with his girlfriend. As children, the sisters were at each other's throats. But Mireles marveled at her sister's ability to smile through her pain, even as her life spiraled downward the past few years. She always knew she might get a call with news of Luera's death, but she figured it would be an overdose. To hear she was found shot, clinging to life on the side of the road, was harrowing. The suspect told police that Luera questioned him about being the last person to have seen Ramirez before her death, authorities said. Mireles takes some comfort thinking of her sister's bravery in confronting him. 'My sister was feisty, so I'm sure she put up a hell of a fight,' she said. Joey Tellez, the attorney for the 35-year-old suspect, released a statement saying he would not be commenting on the case. Ortiz is a Navy veteran who had been in the Border Patrol about 10 years. Back at the modest home Ramirez frequented, an American flag is tied to a front window of a faded green trailer, and toys are strewn across the yard. Her mother, Maria Cristina Benevidez, steps haltingly as she places a photo of her daughter beside the wooden box that holds her ashes, hanging rosary beads and a gold cross necklace from the frame. Roosters are crowing, a Chihuahua named Mia is barking and Benevidez stands solemnly, her head bowed. Two weeks before Ramirez was found, she sat at the kitchen table in this home and shared a frightening premonition. 'I'm going to get killed. I'm going to be dead in less than a month,' her brother Cesar Ramirez remembered his sister saying. 'Stop saying nonsense,' he said his mother responded. 'Stop saying those stupid things.' She persisted, insisting she would be shot in the head. 'They're going to kill me. They're going to kill me,' she said. Ramirez was drunk, her sister-in-law said, and she didn't offer any more details of her vision. Later, Perez said, her sister-in-law pressed her to join her for a night of partying. Ramirez called her over and over, but she didn't answer. Now, she thinks she should have done something more, and she's haunted by Ramirez's parting words. 'This is the last time you're going to see me,' she warned. ___ Sedensky reported from New York.
  • A staple of summer — swarms of bugs — seems to be a thing of the past. And that's got scientists worried. Pesky mosquitoes, disease-carrying ticks, crop-munching aphids and cockroaches are doing just fine. But the more beneficial flying insects of summer — native bees, moths, butterflies, ladybugs, lovebugs, mayflies and fireflies — appear to be less abundant. Scientists think something is amiss, but they can't be certain: In the past, they didn't systematically count the population of flying insects, so they can't make a proper comparison to today. Nevertheless, they're pretty sure across the globe there are fewer insects that are crucial to as much as 80 percent of what we eat. Yes, some insects are pests. But they also pollinate plants, are a key link in the food chain and help decompose life. 'You have total ecosystem collapse if you lose your insects. How much worse can it get than that?' said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. If they disappeared, 'the world would start to rot.' He noted Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once called bugs: 'The little things that run the world.' The 89-year-old Wilson recalled that he once frolicked in a 'Washington alive with insects, especially butterflies.' Now, 'the flying insects are virtually gone.' It hit home last year when he drove from suburban Boston to Vermont and decided to count how many bugs hit his windshield. The result: A single moth. WINDSHIELD TEST The un-scientific experiment is called the windshield test. Wilson recommends everyday people do it themselves to see. Baby Boomers will probably notice the difference, Tallamy said. Several scientists have conducted their own tests with windshields, car grilles and headlights, and most notice few squashed bugs. Researchers are quick to point out that such exercises aren't good scientific experiments, since they don't include control groups or make comparisons with past results. (Today's cars also are more aerodynamic, so bugs are more likely to slip past them and live to buzz about it.) Still, there are signs of decline. Research has shown dwindling individual species in specific places, including lightning bugs, moths and bumblebees. One study estimated a 14 percent decline in ladybugs in the United States and Canada from 1987 to 2006. University of Florida urban entomologist Philip Koehler said he's seen a recent decrease in lovebugs — insects that fly connected and coated Florida's windshields in the 1970s and 1980s. This year, he said, 'was kind of disappointing, I thought.' University of Nevada, Reno, researcher Lee Dyer and his colleagues have been looking at insects at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica since 1991. There's a big insect trap sheet under black light that decades ago would be covered with bugs. Now, 'there's no insects on that sheet,' he said. But there's not much research looking at all flying insects in big areas. THE EVIDENCE Last year, a study that found an 82 percent mid-summer decline in the number and weight of bugs captured in traps in 63 nature preserves in Germany compared with 27 years earlier. It was one of the few, if only, broad studies. Scientists say similar comparisons can't be done elsewhere, because similar bug counts weren't done decades ago. 'We don't know how much we're losing if we don't know how much we have,' said University of Hawaii entomologist Helen Spafford. The lack of older data makes it 'unclear to what degree we're experiencing an arthropocalypse,' said University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum. Individual studies aren't convincing in themselves, 'but the sheer accumulated weight of evidence seems to be shifting' to show a problem, she said. After the German study, countries started asking if they have similar problems, said ecologist Toke Thomas Hoye of Aarhus University in Denmark. He studied flies in a few spots in remote Greenland and noticed an 80 percent drop in numbers since 1996. 'It's clearly not a German thing,' said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, who has chronicled declines in moth populations in the northeastern United States. 'We just need to find out how widespread the phenomenon is.' THE SUSPECTS Most scientists say lots of factors, not just one, caused the apparent decline in flying insects. Suspects include habitat loss, insecticide use, the killing of native weeds, single-crop agriculture, invasive species, light pollution, highway traffic and climate change. 'It's death by a thousand cuts, and that's really bad news,' Wagner said. To Tallamy, two causes stand out: Humans' war on weeds and vast farmland planted with the same few crops. Weeds and native plants are what bugs eat and where they live, Tallamy said. Milkweeds, crucial to the beautiful monarch butterfly, are dwindling fast. Manicured lawns in the United States are so prevalent that, added together, they are as big as New England, he said. Those landscapes are 'essentially dead zones,' he said. Light pollution is another big problem for species such as moths and fireflies, bug experts said. Insects are attracted to brightness, where they become easy prey and expend energy they should be using to get food, Tallamy said. Jesse Barber of Boise State is in the middle of a study of fireflies and other insects at Grand Teton National Park. He said he notices a distinct connection between light pollution and dwindling populations. 'We're hitting insects during the day, we're hitting them at night,' Tallamy said. 'We're hitting them just about everywhere.' Lawns, light pollution and bug-massacring highway traffic are associated where people congregate. But Danish scientist Hoye found a noticeable drop in muscid flies in Greenland 300 miles (500 kilometers) from civilization. His studies linked declines to warmer temperatures. Other scientists say human-caused climate change may play a role, albeit small. RESTORING HABITAT Governments are trying to improve the situation. Maryland is in a three-year experiment to see if planting bee-friendly native wildflowers helps. University of Maryland entomology researcher Lisa Kuder says the usual close-crop 'turf is basically like a desert' that doesn't attract flying insects. She found an improvement — 70 different species and records for bees — in the areas where flowers are allowed to grow wild and natural alongside roads. The trouble is that it is so close to roadways that Tallamy fears that the plants become 'ecological traps where you're drawing insects in and they're all squashed by cars.' Still, Tallamy remains hopeful. In 2000, he moved into this rural area between Philadelphia and Baltimore and made his 10-acre patch all native plants, creating a playground for bugs. Now he has 861 species of moths and 54 species of breeding birds that feed on insects. Wagner, of the University of Connecticut, spends his summers teaching middle schoolers in a camp to look for insects, like he did decades ago. They have a hard time finding the cocoons he used to see regularly. 'The kids I'm teaching right now are going to think that scarce insects are the rule,' Wagner said. 'They're not realizing that there could be an ecological disaster on the horizon.' ___ Associated Press video journalist Federica Narancio contributed to this report. Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears . His work can be found here . ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • As South Carolina rivers overflowed from Florence's torrential rain, deputies taking two women to a mental health facility drove into floodwaters that engulfed their van and trapped the women inside, officials said Wednesday. The two deputies worked to free the women, who were being transported Tuesday night as part of a court order, but were not able to save them from the back of the van, Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson told reporters. 'I'm not sure if it was the way the van was positioned, against a guardrail, or if it was pressure from the water, but unfortunately they were not able to get the van doors open and get the ladies out,' Thompson said. Rescue crews needed about 45 minutes to find the van, which was underwater at that point, and plucked the Horry County deputies from the roof, the sheriff said. Officials said the van was in Marion County near the Little Pee Dee River, one of the bodies of water state officials are watching closely after Florence. Because of darkness, responders decided trying to retrieve the women's bodies from the van Tuesday night wasn't safe. That effort resumed Wednesday morning, and Thompson said a specialized crew was being flown in from Charleston to assist. At nearly 7 p.m. Wednesday, State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed the bodies had been recovered. Thompson identified the women as Windy Newton, 45, and Nicolette Green, 43. Earlier Wednesday, Marion County Coroner Jerry Richardson had identified Newton with a different last name. Thompson told reporters that deputies appear to have driven around a barrier blocking the road but the investigation is ongoing. 'It hasn't been confirmed to me that they did, but here's my question: There's barriers there. It could be assumed that he did,' Thompson said Wednesday. Justin Bamberg, a state lawmaker and lawyer who has represented the families of several people injured or killed by law enforcement officers, said he's perplexed by the decision to transport anyone in such uncertain weather conditions. 'If that road is in an area where it is a flood risk, and waters were rising, why were they driving on that road anyway?' he said. 'People need to know exactly how it happened. It makes it seem like someone took a very unnecessary risk in creating the problem in the first place.' The incident has spawned investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and Highway Patrol. Thompson said he has also begun an internal investigation and put the deputies involved — Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood — on administrative leave. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Flood told a reporter he didn't want to talk to anyone. There was no answer at a number listed for Bishop. Thompson said he did not think the women were in restraints in the back of the van, noting that restraints are used for combative patients 'and I understand they were not.' The women had been involuntarily committed by a physician, authorities said. Under South Carolina law, people who have been certified by a physician as posing an imminent risk of harm to themselves by virtue of mental illness and are the subject of an involuntary emergency admission must be transported by law enforcement to whichever designated hospital has agreed to admit them, according to officials with the state's Department of Mental Health. According to statute, the documents authorizing the admission require 'a law enforcement officer, preferably in civilian clothes and preferably with crisis intervention training, to take into custody and transport the person to the hospital designated by the certification.' The sheriff said his agency acts as a courier in such situations, to follow a judge's wishes. Neither woman has an arrest record in South Carolina, according to documents obtained from state police. Their names also yielded no records in the Horry County jail and court index systems. Newton had posted on her Facebook page that she previously had been hospitalized for mental illness. She posted multiple times about her struggles. ___ AP photographer Gerald Herbert in Conway and AP writer Jeffrey Collins in Columbia contributed to this report. ___ Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard .
  • Foreign government hackers continue to target the personal email accounts of U.S. senators and their aides — and the Senate's security office has refused to defend them, a lawmaker says. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Wednesday letter to Senate leaders that his office discovered that 'at least one major technology company' has warned an unspecified number of senators and aides that their personal email accounts were 'targeted by foreign government hackers.' Similar methods were employed by Russian military agents who leaked the contents of private email inboxes to influence the 2016 elections. Wyden did not specify the timing of the notifications, but a Senate staffer said they occurred 'in the last few weeks or months.' The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. But the senator said the Office of the Sergeant at Arms , which oversees Senate security, informed legislators and staffers that it has no authority to help secure personal, rather than official, accounts. 'This must change,' Wyden wrote in the letter. 'The November election grows ever closer, Russia continues its attacks on our democracy, and the Senate simply does not have the luxury of further delays.' A spokeswoman for the security office said it would have no comment. Wyden has proposed legislation that would allow the security office to offer digital protection for personal accounts and devices, the same way it does with official ones. His letter did not provide additional details of the attempts to pry into the lawmakers' digital lives, including whether lawmakers of both parties are still being targeted. Google and Microsoft, which offer popular private email accounts, declined to comment. The Wyden letter cites previous Associated Press reporting on the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear and how it targeted the personal accounts of congressional aides between 2015 and 2016. The group's prolific cyberspying targeted the Gmail accounts of current and former Senate staffers, including Robert Zarate, now national security adviser to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Jason Thielman, chief of staff to Montana Sen. Steve Daines, the AP found. The same group also spent the second half of 2017 laying digital traps intended to look like portals where Senate officials enter their work email credentials, the Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm TrendMicro has reported. Microsoft seized some of those traps, and in September 2017 apparently thwarted an attempt to steal login credentials of a policy aide to Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill , the Daily Beast discovered in July. Last month, Microsoft made news again when it seized several internet domains linked to Fancy Bear , including two apparently aimed at conservative think tanks in Washington. Such incidents 'only scratch the surface' of advanced cyberthreats faced by U.S. officials in the administration and Congress, according to Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity expert at Johns Hopkins University. Rid made the statement in a letter to Wyden last week . 'The personal accounts of senators and their staff are high-value, low-hanging targets,' Rid wrote. 'No rules, no regulations, no funding streams, no mandatory training, no systematic security support is available to secure these resources.' Attempts to breach such accounts were a major feature of the yearlong AP investigation into Fancy Bear that identified hundreds of senior officials and politicians — including former secretaries of state, top generals and intelligence chiefs — whose Gmail accounts were targeted. The Kremlin is by no means the only source of worry, said Matt Tait, a University of Texas cybersecurity fellow and former British intelligence official. 'There are lots of countries that are interested in what legislators are thinking, what they're doing, how to influence them, and it's not just for purposes of dumping their information online,' Tait said. In an April 12 letter released by Wyden's office, Adm. Michael Rogers — then director of the National Security Agency — acknowledged that personal accounts of senior government officials 'remain prime targets for exploitation' and said that officials at the NSA and Department for Homeland Security were discussing ways to better protect them. The NSA and DHS declined to offer further details. Guarding personal accounts is a complex, many-layered challenge. Rid believes tech companies have a sudden responsibility to nudge high-profile political targets into better digital hygiene. He said he did not believe much as been done, although Facebook announced a pilot program Monday to help political campaigns protect their accounts, including monitoring for potential hacking threats for those that sign up. Boosting protection in the Senate could begin with the distribution of small chip-based security devices such as the YubiKey, which are already used in many secure corporate and government environments, Tait said. Such keys supplement passwords to authenticate legitimate users, potentially frustrating distant hackers. Cybersecurity experts also recommend them for high-value cyber-espionage targets including human rights workers and journalists. 'In an ideal world, the Sergeant at Arms could just have a pile of YubiKeys,' said Tait. 'When legislators or staff come in they can (get) a quick cybersecurity briefing and pick up a couple of these for their personal accounts and their official accounts.' ___ Bajak reported from Boston. Satter reported from London.
  • Authorities said they still don't know why an employee at a Wisconsin software company went to his office with a pistol and extra ammunition and began firing on his colleagues, seriously injuring several, before he was fatally shot by police. Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke said the shooting happened Wednesday morning at WTS Paradigm. Officers were alerted to an active-shooter situation at 10:26 a.m. and arrived to find a man armed with a semi-automatic pistol and extra ammunition. The man fired at officers before he was shot, and he later died at a Madison hospital. Foulke said four officers fired their weapons within eight minutes of getting the call, preventing more bloodshed. 'I think a lot less people were injured or killed because police officers went in and neutralized the shooter,' Foulke said. Foulke released few details about the suspect: that he was an employee of WTS Paradigm and lived in nearby Madison. The chief said he didn't know if victims were targeted, adding that investigators were following all leads. 'We have reason to believe the suspect was heavily armed with a lot of extra ammunition, a lot of extra magazines,' Foulke said. Judy Lahmers, a business analyst at WTS Paradigm, said she was working at her desk when she heard what sounded 'like somebody was dropping boards on the ground, really loud.' Lahmers said she ran out of the building and hid behind a car. She said the building's glass entrance door was shattered. 'I'm not looking back, I'm running as fast as I can. You just wonder, 'Do you hide or do you run?'' she told The Associated Press. She said she knew one co-worker had been grazed by a bullet but was OK. She didn't have any other information about the shooting but said it was 'totally unexpected. We're all software people. We have a good group.' WTS Paradigm Marketing Manager Ryan Mayrand said in a statement Wednesday evening that the company was 'shocked and heartbroken' and was working to set up counseling for workers. He asked the media to respect the privacy of the workers, particularly those who were among the victims. University Hospital in Madison confirmed Wednesday evening that it was still treating three victims from the shooting, saying one was in critical condition and two were in serious condition. Police conducted a secondary search of the office building after the shooting to ensure there were no more victims or suspects — and officers discovered some people still hiding in the building, which also houses Esker Software. Gabe Geib, a customer advocate at Esker Software, said he was working at his desk when he heard what 'sounded like claps.' He said he then saw people running away from the building at 'full sprint.' 'We knew at that point that something was going down. A ton of people were running across the street right in front of us,' he said. Geib said he and his colleagues were still huddled in their cafeteria, away from windows, more than an hour after the shooting. Jeff Greene, who also works at Esker, said police told those gathered in the cafeteria to go to a nearby hotel to make a statement about what they saw. Three yellow school buses full of more than 100 people, including witnesses, were unloaded at a hotel about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the office building. Some people hugged as they were reunited with loved ones. Others stopped to pet a dog that had been brought by someone picking up a worker. WTS Paradigm makes software for the building products industry. A Wisconsin State Journal profile from 2014 listed company employment at about 145 employees and noted the company was looking to move to a larger location at the time. The company's website was down Wednesday. A shopping center next to the building was temporarily put on lockdown at the direction of police. Middleton is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Milwaukee. ___ Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, and Amy Forliti and Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis contributed to this report.