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National
The Latest: Trump threatens to withhold federal payments
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The Latest: Trump threatens to withhold federal payments

The Latest: Trump threatens to withhold federal payments
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Noah Berger
Firefighters work to keep flames from spreading through the Shadowbrook apartment complex as a wildfire burns through Paradise, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Latest: Trump threatens to withhold federal payments

The Latest on California's wildfires (all times local):

1:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is "so poor."

Trump says Saturday via Twiitter that "there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California." Trump says "billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!" 

The comments were Trump's first about massive wildfires, including a blaze that incinerated most of the Northern California town of Paradise and killed at least nine people.

Wildfires also raged in Southern California, including the town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman days earlier killed a dozen people at a local bar.

Trump earlier issued an emergency declaration providing federal funds to help firefighters.

9:20 p.m.:

A Southern California wildfire continues to burn homes as it runs toward the sea. But winds that drove the ferocious flames have eased.

Forecasters say the 50-mph gusts won't return until Sunday, and hard-pressed firefighters hope to use that respite to make progress in halting the spread of flames.

Even so, TV reports show homes, palm trees and even power poles erupting in flames.

The Woolsey fire and smaller Hill blaze have destroyed more than 150 homes and prompted evacuation orders for about 250,000 people from Thousand Oaks northwest of Los Angeles to the celebrity enclave of Malibu.

There's no word on what sparked the fires Thursday. But winds are blamed for pushing the fire through scenic canyon communities and ridgetop homes.

___

7:10 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company says it will cooperate with any investigations stemming from a massive wildfire in Northern California.

The utility told state regulators Thursday that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze minutes before the fire broke out. The company said it later observed damage to a transmission tower on the line.

PG&E spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo said Friday the information was preliminary and stressed that the cause of the fire has not been determined.

The fire has killed at least nine people and destroyed more than 6,000 homes. It forced the evacuation of roughly 30,000 people in the town of Paradise, about 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

___

7:05 p.m.

Some residents forced to flee a growing inferno in Southern California faced a big obstacle getting their large animals to safety.

None may have had it harder than Eva Loeffler (AY-vuh LEFF-lur), who didn't have a trailer for her 20-year-old pony, Minnie.

Loeffler, of Westlake Village, says frantic equestrians were loading horses into trailers as embers rained down and she couldn't get a lift for the little equine, so she improvised.

Minnie trotted alongside Loeffler's car on a rope for more than a mile as flames jumped the road, sirens wailed from passing rescuers and helicopters buzzed overhead.

Eventually a couple with four dogs, three horses, two parrots and a pig stopped and made room in their trailer.

Loeffler says they squished Minnie inside and drove to an evacuation center.

___

6:30 p.m.

A Northern California sheriff says only one of the nine people who died in a wildfire was found inside a home.

Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea said Friday that three people were found outside homes and four people inside vehicles. He said another victim was found near a vehicle but outside it.

All the victims were found in the town of Paradise, which was evacuated as a result of the fire.

Authorities say they conducted numerous rescues Friday as they fought the flames, including using helicopters to rescue five people in the nearby community of Magalia.

The sheriff says they have taken 35 reports of missing people.

___

6:20 p.m.

Authorities say nine people have been confirmed dead in a Northern California wildfire.

Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea said Friday that some people were found inside their cars and others outside their homes. One victim was found near a vehicle but outside of it.

He says he doesn't have all the details on the circumstances of the deaths.

Sheriff's officials earlier had reported six deaths.

Authorities say the fire burning around the town of Paradise has become the state's most destructive since record-keeping began.

___

This item has been clarified to show one person was found outside a vehicle.

___

6:15 p.m.

Ventura County and Los Angeles County fire officials say a wildfire in Northern California has destroyed more than 6,500 structures and grown to 140 square miles (362 square kilometers).

Fire officials said Friday the destroyed structures include 6,453 homes and another 260 commercial structures. The fire is burning around the town of Paradise.

___

5:50 p.m.

The mayor of Thousand Oaks says that three-quarters of his city is under fire evacuation orders and that most likely includes people affected by the deadly bar shooting this week.

Mayor Andy Fox spoke Friday about the back-to-back crises his city faced when a wildfire threatened the city the day after a gunman killed 12 people at a country music bar.

Fox says the distinction between the two events is that the victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill and their family members experienced a permanent loss they may never recover from.

So far, he says, no one has died from the fire that has burned into the city.

Fox says that the fire is serious situation, but that homes can be rebuilt.

___

5:30 p.m.

Fire officials say Southern California wildfires have burned 150 homes and that number will rise.

Authorities also announced Friday that a quarter of a million people are under evacuation orders as wind-whipped flames rage through scenic areas west of Los Angeles and burn toward the sea.

At a news conference, officials said 75 percent of the Ventura County city of Thousand Oaks has been emptied. The entire celebrity enclave of Malibu also is under evacuation orders.

Twin fires erupted Thursday and were pushed by winds of up to 60 mph through coastal foothills and canyons.

The Hill fire has burned 6,000 acres and isn't advancing, but the Woolsey fire a few miles away doubled in size to 35,000 acres.

Los Angeles County fire Chief Daryl Osby says winds are dying down tbut will roar back to life on Sunday.

___

4:55 p.m.

A sheriff's spokeswoman has confirmed a sixth death in a Northern California wildfire that has forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

Butte County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Megan McMann said Friday she did not have details on the circumstances of the death.

Sheriff's officials said earlier that five people were found dead in vehicles that were torched by flames in the same area in the town of Paradise.

They said the five could not immediately be identified because of the burns they suffered.

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

___

4:40 p.m.

California has been granted federal funds to battle devastating wildfires that have destroyed entire neighborhoods and killed at least five people.

President Trump has issued an emergency declaration providing aid to help state and local firefighters battling blazes in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The money will help pay for firefighting aircraft along with shelter, supplies and transportation for the tens of thousands of evacuated residents.

The wind-whipped fires have destroyed blocks of homes in the Northern California town of Paradise, where five people have died.

Other fires in Southern California have destroyed many homes and threaten thousands of others.

___

4:30 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of a massive fire in Northern California minutes before the blaze broke out.

The company said in a one-paragraph summary filed Thursday with state utility regulators that it had experienced an outage on the line about 15 minutes before the fire started. The company said it later observed damage to a transmission tower on the line near the town of Paradise.

The fire has killed at least five people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

The filing was first reported by KQED News.

Fire officials have not determined a cause for the blaze.

__

4:15 p.m.

Paradise town councilmember Melissa Schuster lost her 16-acre Chapelle de L'Artiste retreat, a posh property with a chapel, pond and pool.

But Friday she was clinging to glimmers of hope inspired by two furry llamas — Shyann and Twinkle Star Heart.

"Somehow they made it through," Schuster said.

She had stopped trying to hook up a trailer for the animals and fled the home and property with just three cats on Thursday when the day turned pitch black as fire and smoke roared in.

On Friday she was trying to stay positive. She'd heard her son's home and hay barn survived, along with Town Hall and even some parts of the hospital.

"It's Paradise," she said. "It's always been Paradise and we will bring it back."

___

3:45 p.m.

Blocks and blocks of homes and businesses in a Northern California town have been destroyed by a wildfire.

Parts of the town of Paradise were still on fire on Friday. At least five people in the town died.

Patrick Knuthson, a fourth-generation resident of Paradise, said only two of roughly 22 houses on his street survived. Knuthson stayed behind and was able to save his home.

He said he lost his previous home to a wildfire in 2008.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said about 20 deputies have also lost their homes.

___

2:30 p.m.

A surgical nurse who evacuated from a Northern California hospital with a wildfire roaring nearby says she had to return after her vehicle went up in flames and one of her pant legs caught fire.

Nichole Jolly said Friday that she helped evacuate patients Thursday from Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in the town of Paradise, where at least five people died.

When she tried to leave, she got stuck in the firestorm.

She said firefighters extinguished her smoldering pants, covered her in a fire blanket and brought her back to the hospital, where she waited out the fire.

She said doctors extinguished burning trees around the hospital to try to keep the flames at bay.

Jolly eventually escaped the town.

___

1:20 p.m.

Nurses and patients have recounted their dramatic escapes from a hospital in a Northern California town that was devastated by a ferocious wildfire.

Nurse Darrel Wilken told the Chico Enterprise-Record newspaper on Friday that the fire in the town of Paradise came so quickly that he and other employees at the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital used their own cars to evacuate patients.

Wilken said he took three patients in his car and that two of them were in critical condition. He says he battled gridlocked traffic on a road surrounded on both sides by fire.

Paradise resident Cody Knowles said his wife, Francine, was having gallbladder surgery Thursday morning.

When the evacuation was announced, she was still asleep from anesthesia. He waited until she woke up and they escaped in a hospital employee's car.

The hospital says it evacuated 60 patients to other facilities.

___

1:10 p.m.

A road into a Northern California town devastated by wildfire is eerily deserted.

There were no signs of life Friday on the road toward the town of Paradise except for the occasional chirping of a bird. A thick, yellow haze from the wildfire hung in the air and gave the appearance of twilight in the middle of the day.

Strong winds had blown the blackened needles on some evergreens straight to one side. A burned out car with its doors open sat on the shoulder.

Five people have been found dead in Paradise from the fire, and sheriff's officials say they are investigating additional reports of fatalities. Thousands of buildings were destroyed.

The town of 27,000 about 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco was completely evacuated.

___

1 p.m.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has tweeted that Southern California's huge wildfire has apparently destroyed the TV and movie production location known as "Western Town" at the historic Paramount Ranch.

The National Park Service says it has no details or photos but the structures that formed Old West facades are believed to have burned on Friday.

The park service says the ranch served as locations for productions ranging from 1938's "The Adventures of Marco Polo" to TV's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," and the more recent shows "The Mentalist" and "Weeds."

Western Town specifically was built for TV productions in the 1950s and was used for such westerns as "The Cisco Kid" and "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre."

The location set in the mountains west of Los Angeles dates to 1927 when Paramount Pictures leased the ranch and began making films there.

Filming continued for decades even as the ranch changed hands. It was acquired by the National Park Service in 1980 but has continued to function as a filming location.

When not in use for filming, visitors could stroll through Western Town while hiking or ride through on horseback.

___

12:10 p.m.

A Northern California sheriff says authorities are trying to confirm reports that more than five people died when a wildfire devastated the town of Paradise.

Five people were found dead in vehicles Friday but Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea told television stations KHSL/KNVN in Chico that additional reports of deaths are being investigated.

Honea said flames and downed power lines in Paradise are preventing deputies from reaching some areas.

The five victims were found in vehicles in the same area of the town, where residents described traffic jams and panic as they tried to escape flames on Thursday.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed in Paradise, about 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

___

11:35 a.m.

A mandatory evacuation order for the entire city of Malibu has been reinstated as one of California's major wildfires bears down on the enclave called home by many Hollywood stars.

A city-wide evacuation was ordered early Friday and then was scaled back.

But it has been extended again to include all of Malibu, a city of about 13,000 stretching along 21 miles (34 kilometers) of coast west of Los Angeles.

Traffic is jammed on sections of Pacific Coast Highway.

Some residents have evacuated to the parking lot of popular Zuma Beach.

__

11:25 a.m.

A Northern California university has closed its campus and cancelled weekend events because of a fast-burning wildfire.

But officials with California State University, Chico posted on Twitter Friday that the campus is not under evacuation and that dining halls and residence halls remain open.

The university says the fire has not entered Chico city limits and is moving away.

Chico has a population of about 93,000 people and is 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the town of Paradise, which was destroyed by a fire that killed at least five people.

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco and drifting smoke from the fire has made the air unhealthy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

___

11:20 a.m.

Jessica Van Amber searched shelters, called around and appealed to people on social media to help her find her aunt and mom missing after a ferocious Northern California wildfire.

About 24 hours after she last heard from the women as they rushed to try get out of the town of Magalia, Van Amber posted on Twitter: "UPDATE: MY MOM HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!!!"

Van Amber her uncle called report the women were safe and on their way out Friday morning to reunite with relatives in San Francisco Bay Area.

She says the women stayed in the home overnight while the fire took over the neighborhood and eventually sought shelter in their car. Early Friday, they drove out of town and made contact with relatives.

___

11:15 a.m.

Sheriff's officials in Northern California say the five people found dead in vehicles torched by a wildfire's flames could not immediately be identified because of the burns they suffered.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Friday that autopsies will be conducted.

Officials say the victims were found in the same area in the town of Paradise, near a main thoroughfare heading out of the town that was consumed by flames.

All of the city's 27,000 residents were ordered to evacuate on Thursday as the wildfire quickly turned into an inferno.

Many residents said traffic jams developed as they left as panicked people fled, some abandoning their cars to try to escape on foot.

The fire has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

___

11 a.m.

Northern California officials say investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames of a ferocious wildfire.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Friday the victims were found in the same area in the town of Paradise.

The fire has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

___

10:20 a.m.

A California National Guard official says 100 military police are headed to Northern California to help evacuate people from a wildfire.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin says other military personnel are studying satellite imagery to assess the scope of the damage and map the fire.

The ferocious fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Smoke from the fire has made the air unhealthy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

___

10:10 a.m.

Fire officials say evacuations due to a raging Southern California wildfire are expected to reach about 148,000 and structural losses are expected to be significant.

The so-called Woolsey Fire burning west of Los Angeles has surpassed 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) Friday morning and is continuing to grow.

Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson says 45,000 people in Ventura County and 43,000 more in Los Angeles County were ordered to evacuate overnight.

Richardson estimates another 60,000 people will likely have to evacuate because the fire jumped U.S. 101 early Friday and is pushing toward the coast.

He says the fire's pace forced firefighters to focus on life-protection rather than saving structures and he expects that yet-to-be-determined number to be significant.

Another fire to the west has burned more than 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) in Ventura County but has slowed since reaching the footprint of a fire stripped away vegetation in 2013.

___

10 a.m.

A California fire official says six major fires are burning around the state, and characterized three of them as "critical."

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said Friday firefighters are focused on saving lives and are still rescuing people from fires.

The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Another fire northwest of Los Angeles has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds.

Evacuation orders were issued for residents of the beachside community of Malibu.

___

9:55 a.m.

A New Hampshire woman says she and her brother are frantically trying to get information about their 83-year-old mother, who lives in the California town of Magalia near the devastated town of Paradise.

Diane Forsman says Jean Forsman can't walk and is on oxygen.

She says: "We're trying to remain hopeful until we get word. We don't know what the outcome will be."

She and her brother posted on Facebook and Twitter Thursday asking if anyone had seen their mother. They tried calling 911 and other numbers. They were told that officials had a list of 300 to 400 welfare checks to do.

Finally they got word through Facebook that someone in her neighborhood had picked up a disabled woman but they haven't been able to confirm whether it's their mom.

___

9:40 a.m.

The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says fires across California have forced 157,000 people from their homes.

Mark Ghilarducci provided the figure at a news briefing on Friday.

Fires are burning in Northern and Southern California.

The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Another fire northwest of Los Angeles has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds. Evacuation orders were issued for residents of the beachside community of Malibu

___

9:30 a.m.

The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says a fire in Northern California has claimed lives.

Mark Ghilarducci said Friday the number of deaths was not known. He said there are also injuries.

He says the magnitude of the destruction is unbelievable and heartbreaking.

The fire near the town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

___

9:15 a.m.

Some people who escaped a roaring wildfire in northern California spent the night at a church in the nearby city of Chico.

Residents of the town of Paradise told harrowing tales Friday of a slow motion escape from a fire so close they could feel it inside their vehicles as they sat stuck in terrifying gridlock.

They say it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents decide to leave at once.

Fire surrounded the evacuation route and drivers panicked, some crashing and others abandoning their vehicles to try their luck on foot.

Many of the rural residents have propane tanks on their property and the tanks were exploding.

Resident Karen Auday says "they were going off like bombs."

___

8:45 a.m.

Authorities have issued an unhealthy air quality alert for parts of the San Francisco Bay Area as smoke from a massive wildfire drifts south, polluting the air.

Officials say the thousands of structures in the town of Paradise, 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, were destroyed by the blaze that has charred 110 square miles (285 square kilometers). At least 40,000 people have been displaced.

The air in San Francisco Friday is hazy and the smell of smoke is overwhelming, prompting officials to declare air quality unhealthy.

They are advising older people and children to move physical activities indoors.

All people are encouraged to limit their outdoor activities.

___

8:25 a.m.

The city of Malibu has reduced the scope a mandatory evacuation order for the beachside community as a wildfire approaches.

Malibu officials initially said the order issued early Friday applied to the entire city but have now defined an area that is approximately the western two-thirds of the community.

The fire erupted Thursday northwest of Los Angeles and has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds.

___

8:20 a.m.

A fire official says a Northern California wildfire has put 15,000 homes and 2,000 commercial buildings at "imminent danger of burning."

Capt. Koby Johns of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection also said Friday that about 2,000 buildings have already been destroyed. He described those numbers as "very elastic."

Johns says heavy winds continue to drive the fire but winds are expected to ease Friday afternoon, which could give firefighters an opportunity to start containing it.

___

7:50 a.m.

A California fire official says a blaze in Northern California nearly quadrupled in size overnight.

Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the fire near the town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

___

7:25 a.m.

A raging Southern California wildfire has triggered a mandatory evacuation order for the entire beachside city of Malibu.

The fire broke out Thursday northwest of Los Angeles and roared southward, jumping the U.S. 101 freeway early Friday and sweeping into the Santa Monica Mountains.

Malibu has about 13,000 residents and lies along 21 miles (34 kilometers) of coast at the southern foot of the mountain range.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department tweets that the fire is headed to the ocean, punctuating the message with the declaration: "Imminent threat!"

___

7:15 a.m.

Officials in Northern California say a wildfire that devastated a town of 27,000 is moving north and have ordered people in two Sierra Nevada foothill communities to leave their homes.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office says an evacuation ordered was issued Friday for the small communities of Stirling City and Inskip, north of Paradise, where thousands of homes were destroyed.

Cal Fire Capt. Bill Murphy says winds have calmed down in the valley but that there are "shifting, erratic winds" with speeds of up to 45 miles per hour (72 kph) along ridge tops.

The blaze that started Thursday morning east of Paradise and decimated the town also spread to the west.

It reached the edge of Chico, a city of 90,000 people Thursday night. Murphy says firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place.

___

7 a.m.

Wildfires raging west of Los Angeles have forced school closures.

Pepperdine University has canceled classes Friday at its Malibu and Calabasas campuses. The Calabasas campus is also evacuated.

Malibu public schools are also closed.

To the west in Ventura County, Moorpark College is closed due to the impacts of fire and Wednesday night's deadly mass shooting in nearby Thousand Oaks.

California Lutheran University had already canceled Friday classes due to the shooting. Cal Lutheran says its Thousand Oaks campus is not under evacuation orders but residential students have been put on standby.

The Thousand Oaks-area Conejo Valley Unified School District also has closed all its schools.

___

6:30 a.m.

Two wildfires raging west of Los Angeles have force thousands of people to leave their homes.

The Los Angeles and Ventura County fire departments say multiple buildings have been destroyed or damage, but exact numbers are not available early Friday.

The flames are being driven by Southern California's notorious Santa Ana winds, which blow from the northeast toward the coast.

Both fires erupted Thursday afternoon and have grown rapidly.

One fire that broke out near the northeast corner of Los Angeles has roared westward, jumped U.S. 101 in the Calabasas area and is surging up the Santa Monica Mountains.

___

6:15 a.m.

Evacuations have been ordered on the edges of the Northern California city of Chico, which is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from a town where thousands of buildings were destroyed by a fast-moving wildfire.

Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says flames from the blaze that devastated the town of Paradise had reached the eastern side of Chico, a city of about 90,000 people.

Authorities have said that at least two firefighters and multiple residents were injured in Paradise. McLean said Friday morning that he had no immediate update on injuries.

He says strong winds made it difficult for aircraft to drop retardant effectively on the fire.

___

12 a.m.

A fast-moving wildfire that ravaged a Northern California town Thursday sent residents racing to escape on roads that turned into tunnels of fire as thick smoke darkened the daytime sky.

A Cal Fire official said thousands of structures were destroyed.

Harrowing tales of escape and heroic rescues emerged from Paradise, where the entire community of 27,000 was ordered to evacuate. Witnesses reported seeing homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement home up in flames.

The fire was reported shortly after daybreak in a rural area. By nightfall, it had consumed more than 28 square miles and was raging out of control.

Authorities say at least two firefighters and multiple residents were injured.

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  • One of the nation's largest student loan servicing companies may have driven tens of thousands of borrowers struggling with their debts into higher-cost repayment plans. That's the finding of a Department of Education audit of practices at Navient Corp., the nation's third-largest student loan servicing company. The conclusions of the 2017 audit, which until now have been kept from the public and were obtained by The Associated Press, appear to support federal and state lawsuits that accuse Navient of boosting its profits by steering some borrowers into the high-cost plans without discussing options that would have been less costly in the long run. The education department has not shared the audit's findings with the plaintiffs in the lawsuits. In fact, even while knowing of its conclusions, the department repeatedly argued that state and other federal authorities do not have jurisdiction over Navient's business practices. 'The existence of this audit makes the Department of Education's position (on the Navient lawsuits) all the more disturbing,' said Aaron Ament, president of the National Student Legal Defense Network, who worked for the Department of Education under President Barack Obama. The AP received a copy of the audit and other documents from the office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who has been a vocal critic of Navient and has publicly supported the lawsuits against the company as well as questioning the policies of the Department of Education, currently run by President Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Warren is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2020. Navient disputed the audit's conclusions in its response to the Department of Education and has denied the allegations in the lawsuits. One point the company makes in its defense is that its contract with the education department doesn't require its customer service representatives to mention all options available to the borrower. However, the five states suing Navient — Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, California and Mississippi — say the behavior breaks their laws regarding consumer protection. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says in its own lawsuit the practices are unfair, deceptive and abusive and break federal consumer protection laws. Of the five states that filed lawsuits against Navient, only Illinois and Pennsylvania were even aware of the audit, and they said they did not receive their copies from the Department of Education. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declined to comment on whether it had a copy of the report. The Department of Education said withholding the report was intentional, repeating the argument it has made in court and in public that only it has jurisdiction over student loan servicing issues, through its Federal Student Aid division, or FSA, which oversees student loans. 'FSA performed the review as part of its own contract oversight, not for the benefit of other agencies,' said Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokeswoman. When student borrowers run into difficulties making payments, they can be offered forbearance, which allows them to delay payments for a set period of time. But under a forbearance plan, in most instances, the loan continues to accumulate interest and becomes a more expensive option in the long run. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleges in its lawsuit against Navient that between 2010 and 2015 Navient's behavior added nearly $4 billion in interest to student borrowers' loans through the overuse of forbearance. It is a figure that Navient disputes. A 2017 study by the Government Accountability Office estimates that a typical borrower of a $30,000 student loan who places their loan into forbearance for three years — the maximum allowed for economic-hardship forbearance — would pay an additional $6,742 in interest on that loan. 'This finding is both tragic and infuriating, and the findings appear to validate the allegations that Navient boosted its profits by unfairly steering student borrowers into forbearance when that was often the worst financial option for them,' Warren said in a letter to Navient last week. As part of their inquiry, DoE auditors listened in on about 2,400 randomly selected calls to borrowers from 2014 to 2017 out of a batch of 219,000. On nearly one out of 10 of the calls examined, the Navient representative did not mention other options, including one type of plan that estimates the size of a monthly payment the borrower can afford based on their income. Auditors wrote that many customer service representatives failed to ask questions to determine if such a plan, known as an income-driven repayment plan, might be more beneficial to the borrower. There is no public record of how many struggling borrowers serviced by Navient may have been impacted by these practices. In its most recent annual report, Navient says it services 6 million student loan borrowers, of which 12.7 percent are more than 30 days past due. That would be roughly 762,000 customers who are struggling in some fashion to pay their student loans. If one out of every 10 of those customers were pushed into forbearance instead of an income-driven repayment plan, as the department's audit found, that would be 76,200 of Navient's borrowers. The DoE report contains recommendations for how Navient could fix its practices but makes no mention of firm requirements or sanctions. The education department's Federal Student Aid division decided to do a review of Navient's forbearance practices after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed its lawsuit against the company in January 2017, department spokeswoman Hill said, to see if there were any compliance issues. She said DoE officials came to the conclusion that Navient was not improperly steering borrowers. 'Nothing in the report indicates forbearances were applied inappropriately — the observations noted focused on suggested improvements regarding how to best counsel' a small minority of borrowers, she said. In response to questions over the 2017 audit, Navient pointed to the fact that nine out of every 10 borrowers on the calls were offered all their options and that this audit is just one piece of a broader story. 'This (audit), when viewed as a whole, as well as dozens of other audits and reviews, show that Navient overwhelmingly performs in accordance with program rules while consistently helping borrowers choose the right options for their circumstances,' said Paul Hartwick, a company spokesman. Navient, formerly known as Sallie Mae, is a publicly traded company. In calls and presentations with investors, Navient has said a company priority is to lower the its operational costs. As a student loan servicing company, Navient has one primary operating cost: its employees, including the hundreds of customer-service agents who man Navient's telephones every day. The fewer customer-service agents Navient employs, the more money Navient puts in its pocket. Doing calls to determine whether a borrower should be in an income-driven repayment plan takes longer, student loan industry experts say. In fact, that is exactly what Navient said in its response to the Department of Education's audit. 'We (are not) aware of any requirement that borrowers receive all of their repayment options ... on each and every call,' the company said, adding that if the Department of Education chose to require all servicers to discuss income-driven repayment plans with all borrowers, the Department of Education needs to redo its contract with Navient. Seth Frotman, who was the highest-ranking government official in charge of student loans until he quit in August in protest over how the Trump-controlled Department of Education and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were handling the issue of student loans, said Navient's response was outrageous. 'In short, Navient, when confronted with evidence of its bad practices, is telling the government, 'Pay us more money or take a hike.' And It looks like the Department of Education took a hike,' Frotman said. ___ Ken Sweet covers banks and consumer financial issues for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @kensweet.
  • If you're planning on purchasing gift cards this holiday season, then there are some important policy changes that you'll need to know about.  Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced nationwide gift card policy changes at a news conference Tuesday.  Three major retailers Walmart, Target and Best Buy have all agreed to new restrictions. There will be reductions in gift card limits, as well as restrictions on using gift cards to buy other gift cards. There also will be more employee training for people who work in the stores to help recognize scams when they are happening. >> Read more trending news  Shapiro said gift card scams have quadrupled in recent years.  Check back for more on this developing story, or click here.
  • With Black Friday just hours away, here is a look at some of the best deals of the 2018 holiday shopping season. Computers Apple iPad 2018 with 32GB for $249 – Jet  Apple iPad 2018, 128GB: $329 – Best Buy Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch 2018 for $1,150 – Best Buy Acer Aspire with the latest Core i5-8400 processor for $399.99 – BJ’s Acer 24-inch FHD FreeSync gaming monitor for $100 – Newegg  Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 for $199.99 - Dell Dell G3 15.6-inch gaming laptop for $899 - Office Depot  Dell Inspiron 15.6-inch laptop for $319 – Dell  Dell Inspiron Small Desktop for $249.99 – Dell Dell Inspiron tower with Core i5 for $399.99 – Dell Dell XPS 13 for $1,500 – Costco Google Pixelbook laptop for $699 – Google Store HP 15.6-inch laptop for $349 – Office Depot  HP 1.6-inch Chromebook for $119.99  - Target HP Pavilion x360 14-inch with Intel Core i5 for $549 – Best Buy HP Pavilion 15 for $499 - Staples Lenovo Ideapad 330 Core i5 1TB HDD for $450 – Costco Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8-inch model for $129.99 – BJ’s Samsung Chromebook 3 for $99 – Walmart Surface Go base model for $399 – Microsoft Store Home technology Amazon Echo for $69 - Kohl’s Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones for $90 - Target Bose SoundSport wireless headphones for $99 - Walmart Canon imageClass MF244DW laser printer for $99 – Staples Fire HD 10 for $99.99 - Amazon Fire TV Cube 4K for $59.99 - Amazon Google Home Hub for $99 – Jet  Nest Hello Smart Doorbell for $129 – Google Store Ring Doorbell 2 +amazon Echo Dot 3rd gen for $140 – Best Buy Home goods 60 percent off select office chairs – Office Depot Keurig K-Mini single-serve coffee maker for $49.99 - Target KitchenAid Artisan 5-quart stand mixer for $279.99 - J.C. Penney Twin sheet sets for $5.99 - Macy’s Bath towels for $2.99 each - J.C. Penney Kenmore French door 26.1 cubic foot refrigerator for $889.99 – Sears  Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Gen (matching Target) for $119 (was $199) iRobot Roomba 670 robot vacuum for $194.99 – Jet Televisions Element 55-inch smart UHD TV for $199.99 - Target 65-inch TCL 65S4 4K Roku TV for $398 - Walmart Samsung 32-inch Smart LED HD TV for $175 – eBay Samsung 75-inch 4K UHD TV and Xbox One S for $1,279 – Sam’s Club LG 70-inch 4K UHD Smart TV for $869 plus a $100 gift card – Sam’s Club LG 65-inch 4K UHD Smart TV for $599  - Sam’s Club Watches Apple Watch Series 3 (32mm) for $229 – Best Buy Fitbit Versa smartwatch for $149 - Target Samsung Galaxy Watch for $254.99 – eBay Miscellaneous Canon T6 DSLR Camera Bundle for $399 – Sam’s Club Potensic GPS FPV RC Drone, D80 with 1080P Camera Live Video and GPS Return Home for $199.99 – Amazon  Get select doorbusters free after mail-in rebate - Macy’s Want to check out the Black Friday ads? Here are some links: Amazon Bass Pro Shop Best Buy Belk BJ's Wholesale Costco Dell Dick’s Sporting Goods eBay GameStop Google Store Groupon JCPenney’s Jet Kmart Kohl’s Lenovo Macy’s Microsoft Store Meijer’s Nintendo Newegg Office Depot/OfficeMax Overstock Sam’s Club Samsung Sears Sony Staples Target T-Mobile Verizon Walmart Also see: >> Which restaurants are open on Thanksgiving? Here’s a list >> Which grocery stores are open on Thanksgiving Day 2018? >> Black Friday 2018: Walmart ad features deals on iPhones, TVs, laptops and more >> Oprah announces her 2018 favorite things; here’s what made the cut, where to buy  >> Black Friday 2018: Target, Kohl’s, Costco leak ads promising deals for the day after Thanksgiving
  • “Friendship and money: oil and water.” >> Read more trending news  Michael Corleone told that to a priest in the 1990 movie “The Godfather: Part III” when the prelate confessed that he trusted friends with the Vatican Bank’s money, and it had a disturbing ring of familiarity to a South Dakota woman who was victimized in a lottery scam by a friend that cost her more than $600,000 over a 16-year period. A California woman who won $5.2 million in a 1989 lottery pleaded guilty in a South Dakota federal court last week for scamming six people -- including her friend, Kelly Lhotak -- out of more than $1 million, the Rapid City Journal reported. Judy Carroll, 59, of El Cajon, and her husband won the California lottery in 1989. According to court documents, Carroll scammed Lhotak and five other people out of money in part by telling them the IRS had frozen her assets. Carroll pleaded guilty at the federal courthouse in Rapid City on four counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion, the Journal reported. Carroll was originally charged with 35 counts of wire fraud, but that indictment was dropped as part of her plea deal, the newspaper reported.  Each of Carroll's wire-fraud counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the tax-evasion charge has a maximum of five years in prison. As part of the plea deal, Carroll must pay $1.55 million in restitution. Of that total, $622,236.01 must be paid back to Lhotak, who loaned her the money over a 16-year period, the Journal reported.  It was the classic case  “It’s been a long time coming, and she deserves punishment for what she did for several victims,” Lhotak, who was Carroll’s neighbor in California during the mid-1990s and moved to South Dakota in 2002, told the newspaper. “My heart is broken. I have had the worst betrayal of a friendship that anyone can ever experience.”Lhotak loaned Carroll money beginning in November 2000 through October 2016, according to court documents obtained by the Journal.  Carroll told Lhotak the IRS froze all her assets and she owed the agency money, according to court documents. However, the IRS only froze assets and levied Carroll’s accounts once during that time, in 2007-2008, the Journal reported. She also told Lhotak she needed money, falsely claiming he was a victim of identity theft. Lhotak said she didn't doubt Carroll's stories until she called the IRS in October 2016 to ask if her friend owed tax liens, the Journal reported. When the IRS said it had not, the agency launched an investigation. 'I did it because I loved her with all my heart,' Lhotak told the newspaper.
  • Ohio police officials have released the chilling 911 call made by the sister of a disgraced former Cuyahoga County judge Saturday, in which she reported her brother stabbed his ex-wife to death in his driveway. Lance Mason, 51, of Shaker Heights, was removed from the bench in 2014 after he viciously beat his then-estranged wife, elementary schoolteacher Aisha Fraser, in front of the couple’s two children.  Fraser, 44, died in a pool of blood Saturday morning as her children, Audrey, 11, and Ava, 8, screamed and sobbed inside their father’s Chagrin Boulevard home. The older girl has Down syndrome. As of Tuesday morning, Mason had been charged with felonious assault on suspicion of striking a police officer with his vehicle as he tried to flee the scene. Charges had not been filed in Fraser’s death.  The former state legislator and common pleas court judge, who allegedly tried to kill himself after the fatal stabbing, remains in the hospital. He is being held without bond.  Related story: Ohio judge removed from bench for beating wife in 2014 accused of stabbing her to death The audio released by Shaker Heights authorities begins with Mason’s distraught sister, Lynn Mason, telling her nieces to “come here.” The 911 dispatcher asks about her emergency. “I need the police immediately,” Lynn Mason says. “My brother is attacking his ex-wife.” She gives the dispatcher her brother’s address on Chagrin Boulevard before tearfully telling her they will also need an ambulance.  The dispatcher asks if both Lance Mason and Fraser are still there. “They’re outside. I… I… I don’t know. I heard her screaming,” Lynn Mason says.  “OK, are there any guns or knives involved?” the dispatcher asks.  “I don’t know. I think there might be,” Lynn Mason says. “Please hurry.” Listen to Lynn Mason’s 911 call below, courtesy of WKYC in Cleveland. Warning: The call may be too disturbing for some listeners. The dispatcher asks the caller to stay on the phone and relay to her what is happening. Lynn Mason says she can’t tell what is going on because she is inside the house with the couple’s children.  “I’m inside with the daughter. I don’t want her to see anything,” she says.  The dispatcher tells her to keep the girl inside and try to stay calm so the girl doesn’t get upset. “I’m going to get my guys started out that way, OK, so just stay on the phone with me,” the dispatcher says.  After a few moments, Lynn Mason can be heard telling her niece to stay where she is while she goes and checks outside to see what’s going on. The dispatcher can be heard relaying information to responding officers while Mason’s sister checks on Fraser and her brother.  “Ma’am? Ma’am,” Lynn Mason says upon her return. “Yes ma’am?” the dispatcher says. “He stabbed her and he said she’s dead,” Lynn Mason says.  “Oh my gosh,” the dispatcher responds.  The dispatcher relays information of a “possible stabbing and DOA” to responding Shaker Heights police officers. There are several moments in which the dispatcher and officers talk back and forth about the logistics of the police response. After a while, Lance Mason is heard coming back into the house. The dispatcher gets a description of his clothes from his sister and asks if he still has the knife or if he left it outside.  “I don’t know. He walked in and there’s blood everywhere,” Lynn Mason says as at least one of her nieces wails in the background. Lance Mason walks out again and the audio consists for a while of the dispatcher talking to officers, the back and forth punctuated by the shriek of sirens.  “Oh my God,” Lynn Mason whispers to herself at one point.  Lance Mason comes back inside the house as officers start to pull up to the scene. The dispatcher relays that information to the officers.  “Ten-four, we know,” an officer says.  “OK, are my officers there?” the dispatcher asks him.  An officer comes on and says there is a female down at the scene.  “She does look like she’s been stabbed,” the officer says.  A little while later, another officer comes on the audio. “Radio, send a squad to my location. The guy rammed me from behind,” says the officer, who was later identified by Shaker Heights police officials as Officer Adam Flynt. News 5 in Cleveland reported Monday that the officer suffered serious injuries to his legs and ribs. Court records obtained by Fox 8 in Cleveland indicated Mason was driving “fast enough to cause multiple airbag deployments and disabling damage to both vehicles.” Flynt and Lance Mason were both hospitalized.  The dispatcher asks Lynn Mason if she knows where her brother is. “He’s walking around,” she responds. “He’s walking around. I think he wants to die to, so…” The dispatcher asks Lynn Mason where she and the girls are in the house because three officers, plus a detective, are about to enter. She tells the woman they are in the living room, facing the street out front.  Lance Mason paces around the kitchen for a while before going into the living room with his sister and daughters. An officer comes over the radio and says Fraser is down and not breathing. The dispatcher tells him paramedics are on the way.  A few seconds later, officers can be heard yelling as they get inside the house.  The children can be heard crying. One girl is talking to her aunt, though WKYC edited the audio to remove things the children said during the call. News 5 reported that the girl, sobbing, said, “He killed her.”  “I know, baby. I’m so sorry,” Lynn Mason responds.  A former babysitter for Fraser and her ex-husband told Cleveland.com Monday that the little girls were Frazer’s life. She also loved her job at Woodbury Elementary School, where a candlelight vigil was held Monday evening to remember the longtime teacher.  The Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association organized the vigil and established a GoFundMe page for Fraser’s children. As of Tuesday morning, the fundraising page had raised nearly $110,000.  “We are in deep mourning,” read a post on the association’s Facebook page. “Aisha exemplified the best of Shaker Heights teachers: smart, amazingly caring of her students and her colleagues, active in her profession and in our association. She is loved by many.” Hundreds of people gathered Monday night to remember Fraser, whose photo was displayed at the school’s entrance as family members, colleagues, students and friends recalled her spirit. Cleveland.com reported that Woodbury Principal Danny Young remembered her kindness, compassion and love, as well as her sense of humor. “We have lost an angel, as well as a phenomenal educator,” Young said.  Fraser’s pastor, Chip Freed, of Garfield Memorial Church, told the crowd they have all been left with questions about why her life was ended.  “Aisha’s light is now shining on another shore,” Freed said. “As for the rest of us, we can either curse the darkness, or we can light candles.” WKYC reported that Mason was removed from the bench about a month after an Aug. 2, 2014, assault on Fraser, in which he punched Fraser about 20 times and slammed her head repeatedly against the dashboard of his SUV. He also bit her and choked her as he drove, Cleveland.com reported.  The estranged couple were driving back from a family member’s funeral with their daughters. According to a 911 call Fraser made, which was obtained in 2014 by Cleveland.com, Mason kicked her out of the SUV and, after beating her some more outside of the vehicle, drove away with the children.  Fraser, who feared for the safety of her daughters, begged dispatchers to find her children.  “I’m afraid he’s going to hurt my daughters,” a frantic-sounding Fraser said. “Please find my kids!” Click here to listen to Aisha Fraser’s 2014 911 call, courtesy of Cleveland.com. It may be too graphic for some listeners.  Mason was arrested at his home, where officers found smoke grenades, semi-automatic rifles, more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition, a bulletproof vest and a sword, Cleveland.com reported.  After serving nine months of a two-year prison sentence for the beating, which left Fraser needing surgery to repair a fractured eye socket, Mason was hired last year by Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, who named Mason the city’s minority business development administrator.  Jackson issued a statement Saturday in which he said city officials were aware of Mason’s arrest and that the former judge had been terminated, effective immediately. City officials were cooperating with Shaker Heights investigators in the homicide case.  “I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Aisha Fraser, especially to her children,” Jackson said.  Fox 8 reported Monday that Jackson stood by his hiring of Mason following his prison stint, saying he had no way to predict the future. He also stood by his policy of giving people second chances.  “We’re gonna look at it as a policy. Our policy is second chances unless there is something that would prevent us from doing it,” Jackson told the news station. “For example, you wouldn’t hire a convicted felon and put them around children. You wouldn’t hire an embezzler and put them in the finance department.”
  • At the end of every fiscal year, a spending spree of billions of federal tax dollars occurs in a matter of days. But not all of that money goes to essential items. We found examples of federal purchases for wine, snowboards, pianos, guitars and fancy gym equipment. We dug through thousands of federal contracts for September, the last month of the fiscal year. In just one month, the U.S. government spent more than $6.2 million dollars on gym equipment. That includes millions spent on CrossFit equipment, one of the country’s hottest fitness trends. The State Department specified in a contract for jump ropes that they specifically needed the brand endorsed by CrossFit star Rich Froning. We also found orders for music equipment, like a $20,000 grand piano, Fender guitars and saxophones. Other contracts included $10,000 for snowboards and dozens of iPads. >> Read more trending news  The end-of-year spending is part of a practice called “Use it or Lose it” budgeting. Federal agencies worry they will not receive as much money in the next year’s budget if they don’t spend every penny they currently have. One out of every nine dollars spent by the federal government occurs in just the last seven days of the fiscal year, according to Adam Andrzejewski of Openthebooks.com, a government watchdog group. “When the bureaucrats cannot even spend all the money that Congress is sending them, there's a problem,” Andrzejewski said. We looked at spending in the nearly two months since the fiscal year ended. So far in October and November, only two contracts were issued for gym equipment, totaling $20,000. That is compared to the more than $6.2 million dollars spent the month before. Openthebooks.com has been tracking government purchases as well. They placed an ad in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal listing more than one hundred examples of wasteful federal spending. Last year, they found thousands of dollars in year-end spending specifically on fidget spinners, liquor and wine. “We identified in the last fiscal year that $50 billion dollars of contract spending went out the door in the last 7 days of the fiscal year,” Andrzejewski said. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, introduced a bill that would award bonuses to federal employees who cut budgets. We first reported on that legislation two years ago, and so far it has gone nowhere. We asked the Defense Department why they needed these purchases in a short period of time, and they referred us to individual branches of service. The Army, the largest spender among the military, has not yet responded to our questions.