Death toll from wildfires hits 40 as new blazes start

The death toll from wildfires raging across central and western Russia rose to 40 on Monday, as millions of Muscovites coughed through a haze of smoke from burning peat bogs and firefighters scrambled to put out hundreds of new blazes.

The fires come after weeks of searing heat and practically no rain. Although temperatures in the Moscow area dipped modestly over the weekend, experts predict they’ll climb back to around 100 this week.

Still, firefighters Monday reported making some headway against the blazes that have destroyed hundreds of homes, burned through vast sections of tinder-dry land and forced thousands to evacuate.

Vladimir Stepanov, head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry’s crisis center, said about 500 new wildfires were sparked nationwide in the past 24 hours. but most were immediately doused.


Eighteen people killed after fire razes nursing home

Eighteen elderly people died after a fire swept through their old age and frail care center outside Johannesburg, South African emergency services said Monday, as investigators began digging through the rubble to determine the fire’s cause.

Paramedics said another 84 people were rescued from the Pieter Wessels old age home, about 40 miles southeast of Johannesburg.

One of the victims died from a heart attack after being evacuated. The fire broke out late Sunday.

The Netcare rescue agency said Monday that 17 bodies were recovered from razed buildings at the home.


GOP moderates’ support sought for ailing jobs bill

President Obama’s Senate allies are taking a last run at advancing what’s left of his tattered jobs agenda.

The $26 billion spending measure would help states and local school boards with their budget problems, but its fate is unclear in advance of a key test vote on breaking a GOP filibuster.

The idea is that money — $16 billion to help states with their Medicaid budgets and $10 billion to help school districts avoid teacher layoffs — will help preserve the jobs of public employees, giving a boost to the fragile economic recovery.

A vote scheduled for Monday was postponed until later this week after an analysis showed the measure would add $5 billion to the deficit over the coming decade.

Democrats were scrambling to win the votes of Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, who provided the key votes last month to pass a six-month extension of jobless assistance for the long-term unemployed.

Collins has been a a staunch supporter in the past of giving states help with their budgets and was the driving force behind a $20 billion aid package enacted in 2003. But she’s undecided so far on her vote, a spokesman said, citing cuts of unused Pentagon shipbuilding funds.


University of Georgia tops U.S. party schools ranking

The University of Georgia won a national title this year — top party school.

The Princeton Review announced Monday that Georgia is the No. 1 party school on its now infamous annual ranking. The school of about 30,000 students has been on the list 10 times since the ranking was created in 1992, but this is the first time the university has taken the top spot.

For the campus — surrounded by nearly 100 bars in tiny downtown Athens — parties are just part of life. Many students gear up for the weekend on Thursdays and sometimes don’t rest until Monday morning.

“Thursday night is the new Friday night,” said junior Andrew Chappell, 20.

University of Georgia spokesman Tom Jackson said the list is not one the school wants to lead. He said he’d rather emphasize that the school made Princeton Review’s top 50 “Best Values” list.

The ranking comes after several years of work by university administrators to curb drinking on campus and tone down the party atmosphere.