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November 2019 - Week 1

The Los Angeles Times


Who wants to leave California? Young voters can't afford housing, and conservatives feel alienated


Just over half of California's registered voters have considered leaving the state, with soaring housing costs cited as the most common reason for wanting to move, according to a new poll.

Young voters were especially likely to cite unaffordable housing as a reason for leaving, according to the latest latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times. But a different group, conservatives, also frequently suggested they wanted to leave — and for a very different reason: They feel alienated from the state's political culture.

Republicans and conservative voters were nearly three times as likely to have seriously considered moving as their Democratic or liberal counterparts — 40% compared with 14%, the poll found. The conservative voters mentioned taxes and California's political climate as a reason for leaving more frequently than they cited housing.

“If the people who are giving serious consideration for leaving are indeed going to follow through, the state will continue to get bluer and bluer,” said Mark DiCamillo, the director of the Berkeley IGS poll. “That has huge political implications.”

The findings come amid the slowest population growth in California history — underscoring shifting immigration patterns, declining birthrates, and the economic strains that make it harder for some to afford living here.

One in five Californians pay more than 50% of their income for housing, according to the state Department of Finance.

In Southern California, the six-county region's median home price was $535,000 last month, unchanged from August 2018, according to a report released Wednesday from real estate data provider CoreLogic. The Los Angeles County median price rose slightly to $619,000. The median price in the nine-county Bay Area region was $810,000.

The state's fiscal year budget — the largest in California history — includes a $1.75-billion package to increase housing supply, featuring planning and infrastructure grants to local governments, an investment in the state's housing loan program and an expanded housing tax credit program, among other initiatives.

The Berkeley IGS poll found that 82% of the 18- to 29-year-olds considering leaving the state cited housing costs as a reason, as did nearly 80% of 30- to 39-year-olds.

“That's huge,” DiCamillo said. “Those 65 and older probably bought a house many years ago and it's not that big of a deal. It's less of a factor for the seniors.”

Younger people have a much higher likelihood of moving out of state than others, said USC demographer Dowell Myers.

“People in their 20s and 30s who are also citing a housing problem, we have to take them a little more seriously,” Myers said. “At least relative to the other age groups, those are the ones you have to worry about.”

The poll suggests some “real threats” to California should those voters actually leave, he said. “That impacts the young workforce. The old folks are growing in number, and you can't have the young folks shrinking in number.”

Two in three voters polled said they considered California “a land of opportunity,” though there are stark differences along party and ideological lines. About 82% of Democrats said California was a land of opportunity; only about 44% of Republicans said the same.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party, said the findings about her party's members didn't surprise her, listing reasons they might consider leaving: “Our failing K-12 education. Our affordability crisis. Not being able to buy a home. The homeless epidemic.” Those problems, she said, are a direct result of the Democratic leadership in California.

William Frey, author of “Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America,” said California has had a consistent pattern of people leaving the state for other parts of the country. The exodus has been mitigated through immigration, he said.

About 5 million people moved here from other states from 2007 to 2016, while about 6 million left California, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Half of the state's voters described California as “one of the best places” to live, up from 43% in 2013, the last time the question was asked. About 25% said the state is “nice, but not outstanding.” One-quarter rate it as an average or poor place to live. Democrats and liberals were nearly three times as likely as Republicans and conservatives to characterize California as one of the best places to live, the poll found.

“In general, California is a wonderful place to live. A lot of people think so. But it's expensive — especially coastal California,” Frey said. “It doesn't surprise me that young people want to leave California…. It's typically young people who want to buy a house, and they're not able to do it.”

Still, Frey said, he was surprised by the potential political side of migration.

“Migration goes in two directions: People leave and people move in,” Frey said. “It could be that people moving to California also have political reasons for it. Maybe they move to California rather than a state that isn't as progressive or doesn't have as big of a social safety net.”

He added that if conservative voters do move out of state, California could lose a large tax base.

“I'm not surprised that some people will leave for economic reasons,” he said. “But to move on the basis of political preference, to leave the whole state, seems kind of dramatic.”

The poll surveyed a random sample of 4,527 of the state's registered voters from Sept. 13 to 18. It was conducted online in English and Spanish.


The Washington Post


Smugglers are sawing through new sections of Trump's border wall

By Nick Miroff

SAN DIEGO — Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump's border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.

The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier's steel-and-concrete bollards in a matter of minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.

After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, allowing an adult to fit through the gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the very top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling, according to engineers consulted by The Washington Post.

The taxpayer-funded barrier — so far coming with a $10 billion price tag — was a central theme of Trump's 2016 campaign, and he has made the project a physical symbol of his presidency, touting its construction progress in speeches, ads and tweets. Trump has increasingly boasted to crowds in recent weeks about the superlative properties of the barrier, calling it “virtually impenetrable” and likening the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border-crossers cannot get over, under or through.

The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale and overtop the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in and around San Diego, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials.

Mexican criminal organizations, which generate billions of dollars in smuggling profits, have enormous incentive to adapt their operations at the border to new obstacles and enforcement methods, officials say.

The U.S. government has not disclosed the cutting incidents and breaches, and it is unclear how many times they have occurred. U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to provide information about the number of breaches, the location of the incidents and the process for repairing them. Matt Leas, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment, and CBP has not yet fulfilled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking data about the breaches and repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the private contractors building the barrier, referred inquires to CBP.

One senior administration official, who was not authorized to discuss the breaches but spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they amounted to “a few instances” and that the new barrier fencing had “significantly increased security and deterrence” along sections of the border in CBP's San Diego and El Centro sectors in California.

Current and former CBP officials confirmed that there have been cutting breaches, but they said the new bollard system remains far superior and more formidable than any previous barrier design.

Some of the damage has happened in areas where construction crews have yet to complete the installation of electronic sensors that, once operational, will more quickly detect the vibrations sawing produces on the bollards, the officials said. They also said one of the main advantages of the steel bollard system — which stands between 18 and 30 feet tall — is that damaged panels can be easily repaired or replaced.

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The Washingon Post


Americans sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds

By Dan Balz and Emily Guskin

As the House moves to a new, more public phase of its impeachment inquiry, the country is sharply divided along partisan lines over whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not. That finding is almost identical to support for impeachment in a poll by The Post and the Schar School taken earlier in October.

Among Democrats, support for removing the president from office is overwhelming, with 82 percent in favor and 13 percent opposed. Among Republicans, it is almost the reverse, with 82 percent opposed and 18 percent in favor, even as the president's approval rating reached a new low among members of his party. Independents are closely divided, with 47 percent favoring removal and 49 percent opposed.

Read the full Post-ABC poll results | See results by group

On Thursday, the House approved a resolution setting out the terms for the next phase of the inquiry, which to this point has included weeks of closed-door testimony. The resolution laid out plans for televised hearings with witnesses and rules and procedures for the examination of those witnesses.

The vote on that measure split along partisan lines in a House that is bitterly divided. All Republicans and two Democrats opposed the measure, with all other Democrats supporting it. Those divisions reflected the broader public sentiment highlighted in the Post-ABC poll and underscored the partisan warfare that will surround the inquiry as it moves forward.


Los Angeles Times


Trump can't force L.A. to help catch immigrants to receive grant, court says


SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday that the Trump administration may not force Los Angeles to help the government deport immigrants as a condition of receiving a federal police grant.

A panel of two Republican appointees and one Democrat of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said federal law did not permit the Trump administration to impose the conditions.

The decision involved the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, the primary provider of federal aid to local and state law enforcement agencies.

Congress authorized the program in 2005 to help law enforcement pay for personnel, supplies and other services. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2017, the Trump administration imposed two new requirements on the grant. One required recipients to notify immigration authorities before releasing immigrants from jail. The other said recipients had to give federal agents access to correctional facilities to meet with immigrants who might be in the country without authorization.

The city of Los Angeles sued, saying it did not cooperate with immigration agents because doing so would discourage immigrants from helping police in fighting crime.

A district judge blocked the requirements, and the Trump administration appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, writing for the panel, said the 9th Circuit agreed with two other circuit courts that the law authorizing the grants does not give the Justice Department “broad authority to impose any condition it chooses.”

Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, was joined by Judge Jay S. Bybee, also appointed by Bush, and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, a Clinton appointee.

Wardlaw wrote separately, saying she agreed the conditions were unlawful but criticizing the majority's analysis as “contrary to every other court to have addressed the issue in a reasoned opinion.”

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer called Thursday's decision “a victory for public safety on our streets and for the Constitution.”

“We will continue to fight the Trump administration's unlawful overreach and to stand up for the best interests of L.A. residents,” he said.

Los Angeles uses the federal grant to support local criminal law enforcement and drug treatment and enforcement programs.

The immigration conditions would have denied the grant to hundreds of sanctuary cities.

Last year, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction last year preventing the federal government from applying the immigration conditions. That ruling stemmed from a lawsuit by the city of Chicago.

In another decision this year, the 3rd Circuit also decided the conditions were not authorized by law. That case was brought by the city of Philadelphia.

The grants can be used for technical assistance, strategic planning, research and evaluation, data collection, training, personnel, equipment, forensic laboratories, supplies, contractual support and criminal justice information systems.

The law authorizes $1.1 billion in grants, but funding is generally significantly lower. According to the National Criminal Justice Assn., Congress appropriated $830 million for fiscal year 2002, but in later years funding for the grants was about $500 million.


USA Today


The feds lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children

By EJ Montini

The Trump administration recently announced a new, get-tough policy that will separate parents from their children if the family is caught crossing the border illegally.

It was a big news story. So big it overshadowed the fact that the federal government has lost — yes, lost — 1,475 migrant children. 

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Congress that within 48 hours of being taken into custody the children are transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which finds places for them to stay.

“They will be separated from their parent,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

“Just like we do in the United States every day,” Nielsen replied.

Just like in the states, only ... not

Except that the states, unlike the federal government, have systems in place to better screen the people who become guardians of the children and much better ways to keep track of those children.

And not lose them.

That is what happened to 1,475 minors swept up at the border and taken into custody by the federal government.


The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said, “It's just a system that has so many gaps, so many opportunities for these children to fall between the cracks, that we just don't know what's going on — how much trafficking or abuse or simply immigration law violations are occurring.”

A documentary from the PBS program Frontline said that the federal government has actually released some of the minors to human traffickers.

Imagine that.

And now we want to dramatically ramp up the number of children who are removed from their parents?

When pressed about safety concerns Secretary Nielsen said, "I just want to say, I couldn't agree with your concerns more, period. We owe more to these children to protect them. So I'm saying I agree, we've taken steps and we will continue to strengthen what our partners do to protect these children."

If anything, it would have been better to have a policy in place, with protections, and safe places to stay, and safe people to stay with, and personnel on the government payroll to check-up on them before the administration's new policy was implemented.

Secretary Nielsen said, "My decision has been that anyone who breaks the law will be prosecuted. If you are parent, or you're a single person or if you happen to have a family, if you cross between the ports of entry we will refer you for prosecution. You have broken U.S. law."

We all get that. And we all want a secure border. But we don't want to trade in our humanity in the process.

As Sen. Portman told Frontline, “We've got these kids. They're here. They're living on our soil. And for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat-out wrong. I don't care what you think about immigration policy, it's wrong.”

He's right.

E.J. Montini is a columnist for The Arizona Republic, where this column first appeared.


The Associated Press


Judge blocks Trump's health insurance rule for immigrants


PORTLAND, Ore. — A federal judge in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday put on hold a Trump administration rule requiring that immigrants prove they will have health insurance or can pay for medical care before they can get visas.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the rule from going into effect Sunday. It's not clear when he will rule on the merits of the case.

Seven U.S. citizens and a nonprofit organization filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday contending the rule would block nearly two-thirds of all prospective legal immigrants.

The lawsuit also said the rule would greatly reduce or eliminate the number of immigrants who enter the United States with family-sponsored visas.

“We're very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the healthcare ban immediately,” said Justice Action Center senior litigator Esther Sung, who argued at Saturday's hearing on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”

The proclamation signed by President Donald Trump in early October applies to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad — not those in the U.S. already. It does not affect lawful permanent residents. It does not apply to asylum-seekers, refugees or children.

The proclamation says immigrants will be barred from entering the country unless they will be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have enough financial resources to pay for any medical costs.

The rule is the Trump administration's latest effort to limit immigrant access to public programs while trying to move the country away from a family-based immigration system to a merit-based system.

The White House said in a statement at the time the proclamation was issued that too many non-citizens were taking advantage of the country's “generous public health programs,” and said immigrants contribute to the problem of “uncompensated health care costs.”

Under the government's visa rule, the required insurance can be bought individually or provided by an employer and it can be short-term coverage or catastrophic.

Medicaid doesn't count, and an immigrant can't get a visa if using the Affordable Care Act's subsidies when buying insurance. The federal government pays for those subsidies.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration think tank, 57% of U.S. immigrants had private health insurance in 2017, compared with 69% of U.S.-born, and 30% had public health insurance coverage, compared with 36% of native-born.

The uninsured rate for immigrants dropped from 32% to 20% from 2013 to 2017, since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to Migration Policy.

There are about 1.1 million people who obtain green cards each year.

“Countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today because the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted” without the hold, said Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Earlier this year, the administration made sweeping changes to regulations that would deny green cards to immigrants who use some forms of public assistance, but the courts have blocked that measure.


The New York Times


Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook isn't defending free speech, it's assaulting truth.

By Aaron Sorkin - Mr. Sorkin is a playwright and screenwriter.


In 2010, I wrote “The Social Network” and I know you wish I hadn't. You protested that the film was inaccurate and that Hollywood didn't understand that some people build things just for the sake of building them. (We do understand that — we do it every day.)

I didn't push back on your public accusation that the movie was a lie because I'd had my say in the theaters, but you and I both know that the screenplay was vetted to within an inch of its life by a team of studio lawyers with one client and one goal: Don't get sued by Mark Zuckerberg.

It was hard not to feel the irony while I was reading excerpts from your recent speech at Georgetown University, in which you defended — on free speech grounds — Facebook's practice of posting demonstrably false ads from political candidates. I admire your deep belief in free speech. I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it's a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong.

But this can't possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children's lives.

Don't say Larry Flynt. Not even Larry Flynt would say Larry Flynt. This isn't the same as pornography, which people don't rely upon for information. Last year, over 40 percent of Americans said they got news from Facebook. Of course the problem could be solved by those people going to a different news source, or you could decide to make Facebook a reliable source of public information.

The tagline on the artwork for “The Social Network” read, in 2010, “You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” That number sounds quaint just nine years later because one-third of the planet uses your website now.

And right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it's under your logo. That's not defending free speech, Mark, that's assaulting truth.

You and I want speech protections to make sure no one gets imprisoned or killed for saying or writing something unpopular, not to ensure that lies have unfettered access to the American electorate.

Even after the screenplay for “The Social Network” satisfied the standards of Sony's legal department, we sent the script — as promised over a handshake — to a group of senior lieutenants at your company and invited them to give notes. (I was asked if I would change the name of Harvard University to something else and if Facebook had to be called Facebook.)

After we'd shot the movie, we arranged a private screening of an early cut for your chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. Ms. Sandberg stood up in the middle of the screening, turned to the producers who were standing in the back of the room, and said, “How can you do this to a kid?” (You were 26 years old at the time, but all right, I get it.)

I hope your C.O.O. walks into your office, leans in (as she suggested we do in her best selling book), and says, “How can we do this to tens of millions of kids? Are we really going to run an ad that claims Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick?”

The law hasn't been written yet — yet — that holds carriers of user-generated internet content responsible for the user-generated content they carry, just like movie studios, television networks and book, magazine and newspaper publishers. Ask Peter Thiel, who funded a series of lawsuits against Gawker, including an invasion of privacy suit that bankrupted the site and forced it to close down. (You should have Mr. Thiel's number in your phone because he was an early investor in Facebook.)

Most people don't have the resources to employ a battalion of fact checkers. Nonetheless, while you were testifying before a congressional committee two weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked you the following: “Do you see a potential problem here with a complete lack of fact-checking on political advertisements?” Then, when she pushed you further, asking you if Facebook would or would not take down lies, you answered, “Congresswoman, in most cases, in a democracy, I believe people should be able to see for themselves what politicians they may or may not vote for are saying and judge their character for themselves.”

Now you tell me. If I'd known you felt that way, I'd have had the Winklevoss twins invent Facebook.

Aaron Sorkin is a playwright and screenwriter. He won an Academy Award for “The Social Network” and, most recently, adapted “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the stage.




Hundreds of Oklahoma inmates released in the largest commutation in US history

By Holly Yan

(CNN) Hundreds of Oklahoma inmates left prison Monday before their original sentences were over. And bipartisan lawmakers couldn't be happier.

In the largest mass commutation in US history, at least 462 non-violent inmates were released, officials said. A total of 527 inmates had their sentences commuted Friday, but 65 of them have detainers and will be released later. The move is one of many prison reform efforts in Oklahoma aimed at reducing overcrowded prisons while helping low-level offenders build a life of self-sufficiency rather than reincarceration. "Now is the first day of the rest of your life," Gov. Kevin Stitt told freed inmates.

He and other officials pledged help with what might be a challenging transition for many. "We really want you to have a successful future," the governor said. Video from CNN affiliate KFOR showed emotional reunions outside prisons and released inmates speaking of a new opportunity.

The state Pardon and Parole Board acted to fulfill the will of the people through the HB 1269 docket, giving hundreds of non-violent, low-level offenders an opportunity at a second chance," Stitt said previously. "I also thank the Department of Corrections and the many nonprofits who are stepping up and working hard to connect our inmates with the resources they need for a successful transition. This event is another mark on our historic timeline as we move the needle in criminal justice reform." In 2016, Oklahoma passed reforms that would turn some low-level felonies into misdemeanors. For example, possession of a small amount of drugs became a misdemeanor, and the threshold for a property crime becoming a felony increased from $500 in property value to $1,000 in value. Of the hundreds of inmates who had their sentences commuted:

-- The average age is 39.7 years old

-- 75% are men, and 25% are women

-- They had been incarcerated for three years

-- They were being released an average of 1.34 years early

"Had these inmates served their full uncommuted sentence, it could have cost the State of Oklahoma approximately $11.9M for continued incarceration based upon the average costs," the Pardon and Parole Board said. But the mass commutation isn't the only effort to reform criminal justice reform in the state.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections held its first "transition fairs" for inmates at 28 facilities across the state, the Pardon and Parole Board said. "More than 200 people from 45 community partners, nonprofits, and state agencies attended," the board said. "These fairs connected 781 inmates with the services they may need once released."


The Washington Post

NRA - Guns

The NRA Foundation is raising money by auctioning off guns in schools — to the dismay of some parents

By Beth Reinhard and Neena Satija

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Parents and students trickled into the Muhlenberg County High School gym on a hot Saturday night as the sounds of cheers and a referee's whistle carried from an athletic field nearby. Inside the “Home of the Mustangs,” Friends of NRA was raffling off guns: semiautomatic rifles and handguns, guns with high-capacity magazines and pump-action shotguns.

In the past two years, the NRA Foundation's fundraising program had displayed actual guns along the wooden bleachers in the gym. This time organizers showed only pictures, bowing to objections from parents who pointed to a shooting at another western Kentucky high school last year that left two students dead and more than a dozen wounded.

“It's obscene that they have had guns inside our gym,” said Shannon Myers, whose 16-year-old son attends band practice next to the gym where the event was held in September. “The more I looked into it, the more I realized they are having these events all over the place. Not just here in our little town, but in little towns all over the country.”

Pockets of resistance to Friends of NRA events are cropping up across the country as mass shootings become more frequent and more deadly. Although National Rifle Association officials say only a small fraction of those events are held in schools, opponents have pressured other venues to stop hosting the fundraisers. The events netted more than $33 million last year.

That money is the leading source of cash for the NRA Foundation, a charity that supports the shooting sports. The events combine the efforts of what organizers say are 13,000 volunteers with the NRA's multimillion-dollar marketing machine. They are family-focused by design, helping to cultivate the next generation of gun owners and NRA members.

In a 2013 video posted to the Kentucky chapter's Facebook page, a narrator calls the group “the NRA's best-kept secret” and says: “Every year the NRA fights for our Second Amendment rights. But what is being done to ensure the firearm traditions we love today don't become a thing of the past? The answer .. Friends of NRA.”

Friends of NRA boasts that its events feature the “latest and greatest” guns thanks to “amazing relationships with all the top firearms manufacturers,” according to the video. “You never know who may show up that night — even Wayne LaPierre may come walking through the doors to greet attendees,” the narrator says, referring to the chief executive of the NRA.

A 2014 video on the Friends of NRA's YouTube channel features the tag “FUTURE GENERATIONS” and a girl wearing braces and holding a rifle. “If it wasn't for the NRA, we wouldn't be able to do it,” she says. 

The foundation gives half the money it raises to shooting and archery teams, 4-H clubs, Scouting troops and other youth groups, the NRA says. It uses the other half for national firearms educational programs.

For years, Friends of NRA drew mostly positive publicity from local newspapers and TV stations. Coverage tended to promote upcoming fundraisers or the ceremonial presentation of checks to groups of Scouts or young trap shooters.

Then on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 14 students and three staff members were killed by a gunman. Several teenage survivors from the heavily Democratic community quickly became nationally recognized advocates for gun control, headlining rallies and gaining large followings on social media.

The deadly shooting three weeks earlier at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky. — 80 miles from Muhlenberg County — drew far less media attention. But it galvanized a vocal minority in the conservative-leaning community.

At nearby Murray State University, about 100 people protested later that year when Oliver North, then the incoming NRA president, appeared at a Republican Party fundraiser. “Shame!” they shouted at those entering the auditorium, according to newspaper accounts. North received a standing ovation from an audience estimated at 300 people. 

Among those at the protest was Heather Adams, whose son survived the shooting in Benton and is now a junior at Marshall County High. People often ask her about the shooting, she said.

“People ask, ‘Were you surprised?' No, I was waiting for it,” the gun-control activist told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “I live in the middle of gun country.”

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Los Angeles Times


The Trump-Netanyahu bromance appears over. What's that mean for the Middle East?


WASHINGTON — That best-buddy friendship between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — a personal alliance that has shaped America's Mideast policy for nearly three years — has cooled.

Instead of gushing over Netanyahu and boasting of what he called the warmest U.S.-Israeli relationship in history, Trump has gradually backed away. Last month, he publicly distanced himself from the prime minister when asked about Netanyahu's latest inconclusive election. “Our relations are with Israel,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn, not even uttering Netanyahu's name.

The same month, Trump came close to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, despite frantic attempts by Netanyahu to dissuade him. The meeting never materialized for other reasons.

As Netanyahu's political fortunes are faltering, and just when he could use an extra boost from Trump, the American president has instead cast his sights, and affections, elsewhere. People familiar with Trump's thinking say he likes winners and now sees Netanyahu, who has failed twice to form a government, as a loser. Netanyahu also faces likely indictment later this year on corruption charges.

Trump has already obtained much of what he wanted from Israel and Netanyahu. By reversing decades of U.S. policy in moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and then recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights, Trump cemented support among an important group of U.S. voters: Christian evangelicals.

“Trump uses people [until] they serve his purpose,” said Ami Ayalon, former head of the Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet. “He used our prime minister, and it worked. At least for the short run.”

Of course, that is not to say that Netanyahu and Israel didn't get something from the relationship as well. For a while, Netanyahu flourished under a reputation for having the U.S. president wrapped around his finger. At Netanyahu's urging, Trump torpedoed the Iran nuclear deal, which the Israeli leader had failed to block under President Obama. And besides the embassy move and Golan Heights blessing — both hugely popular in Israel, despite contravening international law — Netanyahu's government has raced ahead with Jewish settlements in occupied territories without the kind of U.S. resistance that had been the hallmark of American policy regardless of which party controlled the White House.

But anxiety is growing that those happier days are in the past. For Israelis, the most alarming sign of strain in the Trump-Netanyahu relationship came when Trump decided to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which shares a border with Israel, and did not inform Netanyahu beforehand. Israelis were shocked and then furious, seeing a U.S. betrayal both of the Kurdish fighters who were being abandoned and of Israel itself. They felt blindsided.

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The Sentinal Source News


‘Never-ending': Child sexual abuse imagery numbers rising in NH

By Hadley Barndollar

The bedding sought by the search warrant, as seen in the videos and images, included a blue blanket with pink flowers — possibly roses — and a white pillowcase with a blue floral print.

The girl had been 8 years old, a student at a Seacoast elementary school. She was disabled. Her school's resource officer identified her in the images when a federal agent sought assistance.

The abuser — a family member — was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison, on two counts of producing child sexual abuse images, though evidence included a total of 27 videos and 11 images.

A victim impact statement, read by a family member at the sentencing in federal court, called the offender “a despicable animal” who chose to go down a road of “darkness, deceit and pure evil.”

In Kik group chats, the man had told other users the girl enjoyed his abuse.

The judge presiding over the case said the evidence showed the man had also admitted to the abuse of another young girl, while unknowingly conversing with an undercover FBI agent in the Kik chat. The defense lawyer argued his client, too, had been abused as a young boy.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, in 2018, tech companies reported more than 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.

In New Hampshire, that increase is 110% over the last 365 days.

Computer related offenses

But law enforcement and experts say the alarming increases could be attributed to the fact there is heightened awareness and more widespread detection of child sexual abuse images — rather than a rise in the transmission or manufacturing of them. In that case, they're catching more offenders, but the apprehension of one typically comes amidst the discovery of 10 others.

A recent paper published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children stated the number of child sexual abuse images on the internet has “outpaced the capabilities of independent clearinghouse analysts and law enforcement to respond.” In 2017 alone, the agency received 9.6 million reports of child sexual abuse images, compared to roughly 10,000 reports per year when the agency started in 1998.

“It is never-ending,” said John Peracchi, commander of the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, commonly known as ICAC. “The number of investigations we've had, the number of arrests we've had, all increased by more than 100%. We have search warrants backed up, ready to go.”

Recent local cases mentioned by ICAC lead forensic examiner detective Duane Jacques of the Portsmouth Police Department include a 16-year-old in Portsmouth producing “hardcore, violent child pornography” for the 70-year-old solicitor. A recent search warrant executed in Exeter led to the arrest of a man on 18 total charges, including manufacturing of child sexual abuse images and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl.

Last month, a Barrington man pleaded guilty in federal court to production of child sexual abuse imagery, where according to court documents, in 2018, he produced visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct using a cellphone.

“I have open federal cases right now that would blow your mind,” Jacques said.

A 2018 study on the complex experience of child sexual abuse imagery survivors, conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, depicted for most of the 133 respondents, the images were part of long-term sexual abuse, often beginning when they were quite young. Fifty-two percent of respondents were victimized by family members.

One year, 425 investigations

New Hampshire was one of the original ICAC Task Force sites when a federal grant funded its formation in 1998. Today, there is a national network ?of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 4,500 federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.

Peracchi, a lieutenant at the Portsmouth Police Department, took over as the New Hampshire commander a year ago. From July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, there were 425 investigations and 56 arrests, compared to 202 investigations and 27 arrests during the same time period from 2017 to 2018.

Over three years, the number of investigations in New Hampshire per year went from 157 to 425, a more than 250% increase.

The increases are across the board — in cyber tips and search warrants, too. At the ICAC headquarters in Manchester, located in the Homeland Security federal building, there are names of towns and cities written in dry erase marker own a white board — search warrants waiting to be executed.

iPhones, iPads and laptops blanket the counters of the ICAC tech lab, seized during search warrants that have already been executed around New Hampshire.

“We're getting about 60 cyber tips per month ad those can be anywhere in the state,” Peracchi said. “When we investigate those, they're leading us to at least one search warrant a week.”

The period of July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, saw 665 cyber tips, 190 search warrants, and 724 cellphones seized.

Per a 2008 federal law, any electronic service provider is mandated to report any child sexual abuse imagery it comes across to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The agency then triages the tip, determines which task force it belongs to, and whether it is a level one, two or three.

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The Guardian - UK


In Iraq, religious ‘pleasure marriages' are a front for child prostitution

BBC investigation exposes Shia clerics in Baghdad advising men on how to abuse girls

By Nawal Al-Maghafi

I'm walking through the security cordon that leads into Kadhimiyah, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites. I'm in a queue, along with dozens of pilgrims who have come from all over the world to pay their respects to the shrine of Imam Kadhim. At the gate, a female security guard pats me down and looks into my handbag, a reminder that the story I'm reporting on here isn't going to be easy.

As I walk around the market stalls surrounding the shrine, I notice the many “marriage offices” dotted around the mosque, which are licensed to perform Sharia marriages. I'd received tips that some clerics here were performing short-term mutaa [pleasure] marriages, a practice – illegal under Iraqi law – whereby a men can pay for a temporary wife, with the officiating cleric receiving a cut.

I was told that behind closed doors many of these clerics were using and abusing Sharia marriage laws to exploit women for profit. These men were grooming vulnerable girls and young women, trapping them into prostitution and pimping them out, all with seemingly total impunity.

For such a story, we needed to secure evidence on camera. We recruited a male undercover reporter who, over the course of our year-long investigation, met and secretly filmed several of the clerics running the Sharia marriage offices in the vicinity of the shrines. Meanwhile, I met and interviewed the clerics' female victims, as well as some of the male clients who routinely used pleasure marriages.

First, our undercover reporter approached a number of clerics with marriage offices near the shrine of Kadamiya in Baghdad to gauge how many were willing to perform mutaa ceremonies. Out of 10 clerics that were approached, eight agreed to arrange a pleasure marriage for our reporter. “You can marry a girl for half an hour and as soon as it's over, you can marry another,” one of the clerics, Sayyed Raad, told our reporter on camera, “even after half an hour, you can marry another,” he repeats.

We also caught on camera evidence supporting some of the victims' claims that clerics often conspired with their male clients to deceive women. In a Kadamiya marriage office, our reporter, posing as a visiting businessman, was advised by the cleric to use deception when planning a pleasure marriage: “Take my advice, don't tell her where my offices are in Kadamiya, so afterwards she can't come looking for her rights. Trust me, it's better that way.”

We found that teenage girls were particularly vulnerable to predatory men assisted by clerics, often paying the heaviest of prices for their misfortune. In Iraq, for a young girl to lose her virginity outside of marriage is widely seen as a scandal bringing shame on her family and tainting its honor. Such girls are often disowned and shunned by their families. In some cases, the girls are murdered.

In Kadamiya, Sayyed Raad offered to officiate a pleasure marriage between our reporter and “a young virgin”. He advised him not to take her virginity during their time together, adding that “anal sex is permitted”. “If I do take her virginity, God forbid, what do I do?” our reporter enquired. “Do [her family] know where you live?” Sayyed Raad asked. “No, they don't,” our reporter confirmed. “Then you can just leave,” the cleric declared.

Reem alleged a cleric groomed her then sold her to three other men.

Watching the secret footage was difficult, especially as I was interviewing many young women who were living with the consequences of the clerics' actions. One of them, Mona, was just 14 when an older man started following her home from school. “He told me he was rich, that he loved my personality, that I was beautiful.” A few weeks later, the man introduced her to a cleric and pressed her to enter into a pleasure marriage.

“I informed [the cleric] I was a virgin,” Mona told me, but the cleric didn't ask for her parents' consent, as is the custom in Iraq, saying it wasn't needed as both she and the man were adults. Now 17, she is under pressure from her family to marry; but is terrified her future husband will find out she's no longer a virgin. Her uncle, she tells me, killed her cousin merely for having a boyfriend. Now she keeps thinking about suicide. “I have no way out. If I feel more pressure, I will do it.”

The investigation took me to Karbala, Shia Islam's holiest site. An important part of our investigation was to establish the role of the holy city's religious authorities in all this – particularly whether they condoned the practice of pleasure marriages. At the main marriage office, I spoke to Sheikh Emad Alassady, who insisted the practice was illegal.

But around the corner from the office, we found another cleric who was willing to officiate a pleasure marriage to a child, including giving explicit instructions on how to sexually abuse children without getting caught.

This cleric was clearly not the only one taking part in such abuses. Another of the women I spoke to, “Reem”, accused prominent clerics of being involved in pimping and pleasure marriages. After Reem's husband was killed by an Isis bomb in 2016, she and her two children became homeless.

Reem said that when she approached a well-known cleric for alms, he had sex with her and pimped her out to his friends. Reem doesn't name the cleric, but describes him as powerful and well-known in her community.

“He proposed a pleasure marriage with me. I had to do it to survive,” she said. They would have sex once or twice a week in his office. Then he began bringing his friends, including one who, Reem says, was “famous in the region. He forced me to go into a room with this friend.”

Reem then found out the cleric was charging his associates three or four hundred dollars to have sex with her, while she was paid just pocket money. “They were like animals,” she told me. “They have sex with a woman then throw her away.”

But how are clerics able to get away with breaking the law so blatantly? The strength of the Shia religious establishment, backed by the intimidatory weight of armed Shia militias, appears to have given Shia clerics a sense of total impunity. Our investigation has found many of the clerics enjoy powerful political connections. One of them, Karbala-based Sayyed Salawi, boasted to our reporter that he was attached to a Shia militia, a claim which is given credence by photographic evidence we found on social media.

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The New York Times Magazine


How Does the Human Soul Survive Atrocity?

After the horror of ISIS captivity, tens of thousands of Iraqis — many of them children — are caught up in a mental-health crisis unlike any in the world.

By Jennifer Percy

Enas was contemplating suicide. She was only 17. For three years she'd been living in Mamrashan, a remote mountain camp for displaced people in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Mamrashan was just one of 16 camps scattered around Duhok, a province smaller than Connecticut. At its peak, Duhok was home to nearly half a million people displaced by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Many have yet to return home. Two weeks earlier, her 16-year-old cousin lit herself on fire in a camp bathroom, next door to Enas's tent. She was too scared to go to the hospital and see her cousin's melted skin. “I saw the smoke,” Enas told me. “I could smell the body.”

She often dreamed about the night that ISIS came to kill the men in her village and enslave the women. Enas is a Yazidi, a Kurdish religious minority group of some 700,000 people, most of whom lived west of Mosul in a district called Sinjar. Her family escaped on foot, sleeping in empty stores at night. One morning, she woke to learn that her uncle and his lover had killed themselves.

It was April 2019 when we met at the camp's “psychosocial center,” a cluster of modular buildings on the edge of a field blooming with yellow flowers. Enas, whose last name is being withheld because she is a minor, wore jeans and a colorful sweater, her long hair twisted into a tight bun. She was being treated by Ziad Ahmad Basheer, a graduate student at Iraq's first and only master's program in psychotherapy. Called the Institute of Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology at the University of Duhok, the program was founded two years ago and is overseen by Jan Kizilhan, a prominent Kurdish psychologist from Germany. Its mission is to train the first generation of psychotherapists in Iraq and to integrate licensed psychotherapy into the nation's health system and eventually the broader Middle East. Basheer will be among the first students to graduate. One of his other patients was a Yazidi who fell in love with a jihadist. They met on Facebook, but he died before she could marry him. She had told no one but Basheer about her plans.

Enas couldn't stop fainting. She was always fainting, and when we finished talking, she fainted. “This is very normal,” Basheer told me, about traumatized Yazidis. “They are trying to go to another place.”

A few more of Kizilhan's psychotherapy students were at the center that day, including Aylin Abdulsalam, who wore a cobalt blazer and high heels, her long black hair falling to her waist. A 27-year-old patient of hers, Zine Hessen, was too traumatized to talk much, so Abdulsalam talked for her. Hessen's four brothers and three sisters had been missing since 2014. Just a week earlier, her 12-year-old nephew returned after being an ISIS captive for five years; he was famished and covered in scars, and he described being tortured. Hessen was happy to see him, but his return made her think about her brothers and sisters. “Maybe I'll be happier if they are all dead,” she told Abdulsalam. “Because at least I'll know they aren't being tortured.”

When they started psychotherapy, Abdulsalam asked Hessen to retell her life story over and over again. “We don't start with ISIS, because it's too hard,” Abdulsalam explained to me. “We start from childhood and move chronologically.” She was using a relatively new cognitive behavioral therapy technique called narrative exposure therapy (NET), which was created during the Balkan wars as a short and pragmatic treatment for victims of torture and genocide. Trauma can devastate and reorganize autobiographical memory, making it hard for victims to feel safe in the present moment. By carefully going through the survivor's autobiography, he or she finds distance from past traumas. Survivors have shown improvement after only a dozen or so sessions; it has been applied over the past 15 years in conflict zones, including Sri Lanka and parts of East Africa. At the end of each session, Abdulsalam read the life story Hessen had recounted back to her. “It made me feel like I was not alone,” Hessen told me.

Kizilhan, the head of the program, was talking with a patient in another room. He had thick salt-and-pepper hair and round reading glasses, and he wore a dress shirt with slacks and a suit jacket. Kizilhan, who lives in Germany, was in Iraq for five days with a pair of German politicians to secure funding for the continuation of the program.

Kizilhan's life seemed to illustrate the question that now drives his work: How does the human soul survive atrocity? Born in a small Yazidi village with no electricity in Turkey's Anatolian plains, he grew up listening to stories of farman , a Yazidi word for genocide. His grandfather was murdered in the mountains for refusing to convert to Islam, and following a 1971 military coup when Kizilhan was 5, he was told not to speak Kurdish. Two years later, he and his siblings immigrated to Germany, where his parents were already living. He grew close to two of his neighbors, who were Holocaust survivors, and became fascinated by the resilience of the human mind. He completed two doctorates, one in psychology and the other in minority religions of the Middle East, and has since published 25 books; his most recent is on the psychology of the Islamic State, a best seller in Germany. Now 53, he has spent more than 20 years treating refugees of war and genocide from all over the world.

At the psychosocial center, Kizilhan was meeting with Midya, an 8-year-old Yazidi girl who used to faint some 20 times a day. Kizilhan said he frequently received calls from doctors in Canada and Europe wondering what to do about fainting among Yazidis, especially among the women who had been raped. “The women are always having dissociations,” he told me. “Usually because of a trigger, a smell, or they might see something in the paper. To avoid the rape in their minds, they might faint and fall down. They live with a feeling of unreality and detachment from the world.”

Midya's regular therapist was Ahlam Farhan Younis, another student in the program. Midya, who was held captive by ISIS, was a difficult case, and Younis had spent a year treating her before she showed any signs of improvement. The girl talked to invisible beings; she was depressed and overwhelmed by nightmares, and she cried all the time. Younis thought she had schizophrenia, but Kizilhan determined it was PTSD that was causing her disassociation.

Under his guidance, Younis developed a strategy: She let Midya sit next to her and just draw pictures. Midya seemed to enjoy it, but she would not speak. Then one day, after six weeks, Younis brought a doll to the session and said: “From now on, it's you, me and the doll. You can tell the doll anything you want. You can even ask the doll about yourself.” After a few months, Midya's symptoms were gone.

“Just to survive, she had to leave our real world,” Kizilhan told me. “She had to faint and fall down and disassociate. She told me she imagined falling to the ground, going someplace where she was surrounded by woods where she was sure no one would target or kill her.” Some people believed Midya's behavior was abnormal, but, Kizilhan explained, it was a healthy response to immense stress. “It's very normal to leave reality to survive,” he told me. But if it becomes too frequent, it can be pathological. “If you have to leave reality, the body will survive, but the soul will not.”

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The Washinton Post


Proposed HHS rule would strip Obama-era protections for LGBTQ individuals

Foster care and adoption groups that rely on federal grants would be allowed to refuse placement for gay, lesbian parents.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

Citing concerns about religious freedom, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday proposed a new rule that would effectively eliminate discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals in all its grant programs.

The most immediate impact would likely be on the nation's $7 billion federally funded child-welfare system, including foster care and adoption programs. Faith-based agencies in several states, including South Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have argued they should not be forced to work with gay, lesbian or transgender parents against their own beliefs.

But the proposed rule would also apply to other HHS grants, including those for HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, other public health initiatives, health education, prekindergarten programs and more.

The draft says HHS will remove language introduced during the Obama administration that “no person otherwise eligible will be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination” based on a long list of characteristics including race, age, gender identity and sexual orientation.

In its place, the agency would guarantee protections required by federal statute. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and others provide protections for everything on the Obama-era list except for sexual orientation and gender identity. Efforts to get Congress to add these protections over the years have stalled. The most recent attempt, the Equality Act, passed the Democratic-controlled House in May but has not moved in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Azar wrote in the proposal that the agency had received complaints that the nondiscrimination language violates the U.S. Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and exceeds the department's authority.

Denise Brogan-Kator, chief policy officer of the Family Equality Council, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ families, called the change “outrageous.”

“This represents another attack by this administration on the lives of the most vulnerable in our country under the pretense of religious freedom. Religious freedom is important — we protect it in the First Amendment — but it does not extend to harming others,” Brogan-Kator said.

Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement that the rule would “open the door to discrimination” in countless programs.

Supporters of the rule said that in the past, faith-based groups accepting federal grants were forced to compromise their beliefs, or else opt out of participating in foster care and adoption.

Lori Windham, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, a nonprofit group that champions religious freedom, said in a statement that HHS is repealing “a bad regulation that made it harder for faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to follow their sincere religious beliefs while serving children in need.”

The old rule, “made in the waning days of the Obama administration, with no legislative or judicial mandate, limits the good done for needy kids by faith-based agencies because of their longstanding beliefs about marriage,” Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, legal adviser for the Catholic Association Foundation, said in a statement. “Agencies that find loving foster and adoptive homes shouldn't be subject to ideological shakedowns by the government.”

The rule is the culmination of smaller efforts by HHS to prioritize religious rights, which they say were neglected under previous administrations. In January, HHS granted a waiver to South Carolina's Miracle Hill Ministries — which requires foster-care parents to affirm their faith in Jesus Christ and refused to work with a Jewish woman seeking to be a mentor — to continue to receive federal funds. And the agency drafted a budget request seeking broad authority to allow faith-based foster-care and adoption groups that reject LGBTQ parents, non-Christians and others in federally funded child-welfare programs.

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The Los Angeles Times


Fear is big business: This store sells protection from fires, earthquakes, shooters and more


Attorney Arezou Diarian thought she was ready for anything.

The 49-year-old mother of two had stocked her home's bedroom closets with emergency kits, each capable of sustaining a family of four for three days should a fire, earthquake or other calamity strike. Diarian had first aid supplies and search-and-rescue equipment. There were particulate respirators and air filters to protect against air fouled by smoke and chemicals.

Then she visited SOS Survival Products, a low-slung, windowless cinder-block building utterly lacking in curb appeal. There, Diarian found out her preparations weren't nearly good enough.

“I'm going to get an emergency kit for my office,” she said. “I bought a seat-belt cutter and car window breaker and pepper spray. I bought a crowbar, and I bought another first aid kit for my car.”

In a modest industrial section of Van Nuys, SOS owner Jeff Edelstein caters to the fear of the day.

Wildfires? He's got eight kinds of filtration masks and multiple types of preassembled backpack kits to grab and go.

Earthquake? He'll show customers how to store enough water for a week or more and to secure furniture and cabinets.

Power outage? He's got a solar-powered generator that can run a CPAP breathing machine overnight. There are bigger generators too, with training in proper operation to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning.

In need of temporary shelter? He has tents, cots, bedding, portable toilets and pop-up privacy shelters.

Edelstein, 51, has been in the emergency preparedness business since 1989, the year of the deadly Loma Prieta earthquake in Northern California, immortalized by a seismic image on the store's wall. Edelstein started out selling supplies in his father's Westchester hardware store and later opened his own place peddling protection and peace of mind.

To inject a little lightheartedness into an otherwise grim enterprise, Edelstein displays Zombie Survival Kits containing “the necessary items to sustain one person for two days of survival during an apocalypse or any type of disaster.” After all, surviving any emergency requires food, water, shelter, sanitation facilities and the ability to render first aid.

Diarian wasn't fazed by the zombie references, but some items stopped her cold, such as the classroom lockdown kits for active shooter emergencies.

Each kit, in a black five-gallon bucket, includes a portable toilet, wipes, vinyl gloves, duct tape, cat litter for absorbing messes and a tarp for privacy. “In the end, it's an item no school should be without,” said the ad for the product.

“That was disheartening,” Diarian said. “But it also made me feel good to know that people are realizing that this is the reality we now live in, and we just need to be prepared.”

Disaster worries among individuals, schools, businesses and government agencies are driving a surge in spending to prepare for and react to global emergencies. The worldwide market for such products and services was $75.5 billion in 2017 and is predicted to increase to $423 billion by 2025, according to research firm Allied Market Research.

The report cited a rise in the need for “safety and security solutions, owing to increases in natural calamities and terrorist attacks, implementation of regulatory policies for public safety and the necessity of emergency preparedness.”

From 1980 through 2018, the U.S. endured an annual average of 6.3 weather or climate-related disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages, adjusted for inflation, according to the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So far in 2019, there have been 10 such events, NOAA said.

In California, wildfires torched more than 1.2 million acres in 2017 and 1.6 million acres in 2018, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the U.S. Forest Service.

This year's preventive power outages to avoid fires started by utility equipment have affected millions of customers.

The number of active shooter incidents rose to 30 in 2017 and 27 in 2018 from 21 or fewer in each of the previous six years, the FBI reports.

Increases in the frequency and severity of man-made and natural disasters has created a kind of collective global unease, experts say.

“We are learning to think about the unthinkable. This is the opposite of complacency, and that should be the motto for this day and age,” said Naj Meshkati, a USC professor of civil and environmental engineering, industrial systems engineering and international relations. Meshkati has traveled extensively to study disaster sites such as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was severely damaged in 2011 by a magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

“Both the natural and man-made disasters of the recent past have exceeded our expectations,” Meshkati said. “It is not safe to settle for what you have done.”

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The Wall Street Journal


NASA's Voyager 2 Sends First Data From Interstellar Space After 42-Year Trip

Probe's crossing into cold outer space provided new insights into interstellar borderlands

By Robert Lee Hotz

The Voyager 2 probe signaled its passage into interstellar space with a cascade of data from beyond the planets, where the cold breath of stars envelops the solar system, NASA scientists reported Monday.

It was a moment 42 years in the making.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launched the spindly spacecraft in 1977—one in a pair of star-bound Voyager probes—Jimmy Carter was president, Apple Computer had just been incorporated, and snow fell in Miami for the first time in memory.

Originally designed to visit Jupiter and Saturn, the probe was never meant to go so far, the scientists said. By doing so, researchers were able to get rare firsthand reports about the limits of the sun's protective shield, the heliosphere, which blocks most damaging cosmic rays from interstellar space, gaining knowledge that overturns some long-held assumptions.

In five technical papers about the milestone published in the journal Nature Astronomy, mission scientists and engineers detailed the exotic collision of superheated solar winds and frigid currents of interstellar space in a zone where the sun's protective bubble of influence fades away.

That solar boundary, called the heliopause, is created by intersecting magnetic fields, streams of cosmic rays from deep space and bursts of charged atomic particles from the sun.

When the hotter but more tenuous material of solar particles plows into the cooler, denser substance of the space between the stars, it creates a bow wave like the prow of a speeding sailboat approximately 11 billion miles from the sun, the scientists said.

“There was a time 50 years or so ago when people thought that the solar wind would get gradually whittled away or dissipated as it propagated into interstellar space,” said physicist Edward Stone, Voyager's project scientist at the California Institute of Technology. “In fact, there is a very, very sharp boundary there.”

‘There was a time 50 years or so ago when people thought that the solar wind would get gradually whittled away or dissipated as it propagated into interstellar space. In fact, there is a very, very sharp boundary there.'

Voyager 2 officially crossed the boundary of the solar bubble on Nov. 5, 2018, recording its passage with all five of its sensors in working order, the scientists said. NASA is confirming the border crossing only now because it took almost a year to receive all the probe's data. The information was coming from a distance where signals traveling at the speed of light take 16.5 hours to reach researchers on Earth, who then processed it, analyzed it and double-checked their conclusions.

No obvious visual indicators, such as an orbiting planet or an asteroid belt, mark the border. So the scientists decided the probe had broken through into interstellar space because data from the craft's sensors showed a sharp decrease in the intensity of low-energy solar ions and a simultaneous increase in the intensity of cosmic rays.

“We saw the plasma density jump by a very large amount, by a factor of 20, in this very short boundary out there,” said Voyager plasma wave physicist Donald Gurnett at the University of Iowa.

Voyager 2 was the second spacecraft to go the distance. After several premature reports, NASA scientists in 2013 announced that the Voyager 1 probe had officially crossed into interstellar space on Aug. 25, 2012, becoming the first human artifact to leave the sphere of solar influence. It is the most distant object made by human hands.

Technically, neither craft has left the solar system yet, just the neighborhood encompassed by the sun's influence.

The farthest known region of the solar system is vast collection of comets and other space debris called the Oort cloud. At its current speed of about a million miles a day, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft won't enter the Oort cloud for about 300 years and won't exit the outer edge for 30,000 years or so, space agency scientists said.

Both Voyager probes are powered by plutonium-fueled nuclear generators and are expected to keep their sensors operating for another five years or so, the scientists said.

Even after they lose power, they will continue outward as ambassadors from the life forms of Earth. Each carries a gold-plated disc containing images of humankind and multicultural greetings in 55 languages. Sounds include laughter and a human heartbeat.

Barring any mishap, the Voyager 1 probe is expected to pass within 1.6 light years of a star called Gilese 445 in about 40,000 years, the scientists calculated. In about 296,000 years, Voyager 2, should its journey continue to be uneventful, will pass within 4.3 light years of Sirius—the brightest star in the night sky.




Vampire bats form close friendships and help each other, study finds

By Jessie Yeung

(CNN) Vampire bats may be bloodsucking creatures of the night -- but they also form strong friendships and help each other out in times of need, a study has found.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, found that vampire bats who formed social bonds in captivity maintained those bonds even after they were released back into the wild.

This is significant because it's often difficult to tell whether "partner fidelity" in animal relationships is due to the immediate costs and benefits of helping each other, or due to some shared relationship history. But in this experiment, the bats remembered and helped each other in two drastically different environments, even when they didn't have to.

The study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, housed 23 wild female vampire bats and their captive-born offspring for almost two years. To encourage them to help each other and to measure these relationships, researchers withheld food from some individual bats "to induce social grooming and regurgitated food sharing."

They found that the bats who didn't receive food had a higher probability of being groomed and fed by other bats. This kind of cooperation is particularly rare between vampire bats that aren't related because they have to pay a cost to help their peers -- to feed each other, they have to regurgitate their own meals.

"It's pretty rare outside of humans to have behaviors where I'm paying an obvious cost to help you and you're not related to me," said Gerald Carter, one of the study's lead authors, in the press release.

Then, the bats were released back into their original roost, wearing small sensors to monitor their behavior. Even though they were now part of a bigger group with other bats who hadn't been part of the experiment, the "test" bats who had lived together in the lab stuck together -- they had higher levels of social grooming, food sharing, and close contact with each other.

The fact that the bats continued their friendships in the wild was "a sign that the relationships weren't borne only of convenience while they lived together in a cage," said the study's press release.

"It's kind of analogous to being friends in high school," said Carter. "After you graduate, and you're released out of this structured environment, do you continue to stay in touch with those people, or do you lose touch with them? It depends on personality types and the kinds of experiences you shared. That's essentially what we were after with this study."

The study concluded that, much like humans, vampire bat friendships are generally strengthened by their shared past experiences.

However, sometimes humans drift apart after high school -- and similarly, not all the lab bat friendships survived in the wild. In particular, the captive-born offspring had bite marks after returning to the wild colony, and they eventually left the roost. The study suggested they might have tried to fly back to their place of birth -- the lab -- or perhaps failed to develop natural wild bat behaviors.

RELATED: Goats can distinguish emotions in each other's bleats, study finds


The Wall Street Journal


In Pioneer-Era Graffiti, Clues About the American West

Messages scrawled during the 19th- and early 20th-century at the Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico and other sites are shedding light on how areas were settled

By Jim Carlton

Aztec Ruins National Monument, N.M. -- Most visitors here admire the remnants of a lost civilization. Fred Blackburn studies the graffiti.

“There's some good stuff here, Fred,” Zoe Matney, an assistant, called to Mr. Blackburn one afternoon in early October from atop scaffolding in a 900-year-old room. She wiped away dust to reveal a signature on a wooden ceiling beam.

Mr. Blackburn specializes in a relatively new field, studying what he calls “historic inscriptions” and others might label old-time graffiti. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, settlers scrawled names, dates and messages at Native American ruins and other sites across the American West.

“It was a way of saying ‘I was here',” said Nathan Hatfield, chief of interpretation for the Aztec monument. “We call it vandalism today, but back then they didn't see it that way.”

Other sites where graffiti from pioneers and Spanish explorers has been preserved include Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, Utah's Natural Bridges National Monument, New Mexico's El Morro National Monument and the Alamo, an 18th-century mission in San Antonio, Texas, that was the site of the famous battle between Anglo settlers and Mexican soldiers.

Some rangers worry that as word gets out about the historic inscriptions, visitors today will want to leave messages, too. What's the difference between illegal graffiti and historic graffiti worth protecting? Mr. Blackburn's verdict: at least 50 years.

For him, the Aztec Ruins National Monument, located 200 miles northwest of Albuquerque, has been a gold mine. Unlike other ruins where many pioneer signatures have faded in the open air, 23 of the 400 masonry rooms here still have wood ceilings covered with messages from over a century ago. Most are in lead pencil, with some in quill pen and ink. Aztec was a trading post in the 1870s and went on to become a farming center in New Mexico.

Mr. Blackburn's work here began in May, with a $2,500 federal grant. He specializes in historic inscriptions, which some researchers see as helpful in learning about the Americans and European immigrants who settled the West.

“The fascination is to reach out across the years and get a sense of the people who passed through these important places and left a little behind,” said Paul Reed, preservation archaeologist with Archaeology Southwest, a Tucson, Ariz.-based nonprofit assisting Mr. Blackburn. “These inscriptions give us a little taste of these travelers who passed through.”

One message written on a wooden beam reads: “Bowman the Great.” Mr. Blackburn's team initially thought that the anonymous writer was a soldier referring to a prostitute with that nickname who followed military camps of the Old West. But they changed their minds after the dates on the graffiti didn't match up with that theory. “A great story, though!” Mr. Blackburn said, adding: “It's like an historic bank in there.”

He got interested in inscriptions 40 years ago while working as a ranger for the Bureau of Land Management in the Four Corners area, where the borders of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. He realized the graffiti could help him track where some 19th-century expeditions unearthed artifacts and uncover clues about the early settlements.

Rangers here said they have long been aware of the graffiti but that Mr. Blackburn was the first to propose studying it.

“We've done a really good job of capturing the pre-historic part of the ruins,” said Aron Adams, chief archaeologist with the monument. “But we are lacking in the history of the last 150 years.”

Mr. Blackburn, who is 69 years old and lives in Cortez, Colo., has a team that includes assistants like Ms. Matney, 18, and staff at the monument. So far, they have gone through seven rooms and expect to wrap up work by the end of the year. The graffiti dates from the early 1880s when explorers first entered the ruins to 1915, he said.

So far, the team has documented more than 2,000 names, many on 10-foot-high ceilings that were accessible by climbing piles of rubble from early explorers breaking into the rooms. In 1915 the rooms were cleared of the debris, preserving ceilings from additional signatures.

Some names offer clues to Aztec's role as a crossroads of the Old West. Signatures of H.D. Abrams were found in several rooms, leading Mr. Blackburn to speculate they were from a man by the same name who once owned the land the ruins are on and helped preserve them. So far, the name Harry Goulding has been found in most rooms, Ms. Matney said. She believes it was signed by a man of that name who, with his wife, later opened a trading post in Utah's Monument Valley and helped house stars filming Westerns there, including John Wayne.

One tantalizing inscription reads “Edward Prince of Wales.” The team suggested it might have been written by a visitor from Great Britain noting the 1894 birth of the boy who became king and abdicated, after a brief reign, in 1936.

“People would write down what was important to them,” Mr. Blackburn said. He pointed out a 100-word essay marveling at the ruins that was written in pencil by someone named Phila Bliven. Mr. Blackburn assumes it was by a woman, who dated her work January 1894. She wrote: “Surely the people who built these mighty temples & palaces were a very ancient race…possessed of a degree of civilization equal to the ancient Egyptians.”

Documenting the graffiti is a dirty, time-consuming job. It can also provide some frights, such as when spiders pop up. The researchers spent three days in one room with a bat that wouldn't leave.

Not all visitors are pleased with the graffiti. “To me, it's vandalism,” said LeAnn Azure Christianson, of Billings, Mont. But most others were impressed. Emily Ladd, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who visited the ruins with her 10-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, said, “I was surprised graffiti could be informative.”



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Law Enforcement News - Wed, 11/06

Ohio LEO Shot While Serving Warrant In ‘Grave' Condition
Jorge DelRio has been identified as the Dayton police officer shot Monday night while serving a search warrant with a DEA task force. Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl described DelRio's injuries as “grave” and said he had been shot twice in the face. DelRio has served with the police department for 30 years. DelRio, along with other DEA task force members, approached a home sometime before 7 p.m. Monday in the 1400 block of Ruskin Road in Dayton when he was shot. DelRio was the only person injured, according to a release from Dayton police. Fellow officers loaded DelRio into a police cruiser and drove to Grandview Medical Center. Five suspects in the house were taken into custody and a large amount of fentanyl and cash was recovered at the address, Biehl said. Multiple weapons were also found at the home, according to a Dayton police statement.
Dayton Daily News

Man In Watts Shot And Killed While Waiting At A Traffic Light, Police Say
A man was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon after stopping at a red light in the Watts area of Los Angeles. The homicide occurred near the intersection of 103rd Street and Compton Avenue. Los Angeles police say the suspect, described only as a black male, walked up to the victim's car and fired multiple rounds striking the victim before getting in a vehicle and driving away. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity has not been released. A motive for the killing was not immediately known but LAPD believes the attack is gang-related. LAPD has not released additional details at this time. The investigation is ongoing.
FOX 11

Sherman Oaks Hit-and-Run: Man Left For Dead In Street As Dozens Drive By
Disturbing new video shows a man run down on a busy street in Sherman Oaks - and then dozens of cars pass by without stopping to help. Investigators believe street racing is to blame for the crash that killed 22-year-old Neri Ramirez Chalo. The suspect remains on the loose. In video released by the Los Angeles Police Department, Chalo is seen getting out of his car on Sepulveda Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. He runs across the street and is struck by a vehicle that fled the scene. After that vehicle sped off, some 35 other cars pass by and fail to stop and render aid. Some even slowed down and drove around the body, then kept going. Chalo was pronounced dead by paramedics once they were finally called. LAPD says the vehicle that struck and killed the victim was driven by Roberto Ocampo, who is not in custody. Police said he was driving a 2008 white Infiniti G37 and they believe he is part of a car club that engages in street racing. A $50,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and successful prosecution of Ocampo.

Caller Leads LAPD To $800,000 In Stolen Artwork

This time, detectives didn't have to track down the stolen art. Someone brought it to them. Los Angeles police said Tuesday that they recovered $800,000 worth of prints by Scottish abstract expressionist Benjamin Creme after a caller said they were in a home in San Fernando. Police believe the nearly 1,300 prints were there for several years, but the caller who had them only recently checked a law-enforcement database and discovered they were stolen. The caller, who was not identified, told police they were found among a relative's possessions after she died. “The family took the stuff and had it stored in their house for several years when they finally started going through it and discovered the art was stolen,” Detective Steven Franssen said. “They immediately packed it up and took it to the police station.”
Los Angeles Times

Man Serving Time For Murder Is Convicted Of Raping, Killing Silver Lake Woman
In 1980 A man who was serving time in prison for murder has been convicted of raping and fatally stabbing a woman in her Silver Lake apartment in 1980, officials announced Tuesday. Harold Anthony Parkinson, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder, and a jury also found true a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape. Parkinson beat and stabbed Stephanie Sommers, 36, in her apartment along the 3500 block of Marathon Street on Aug. 30, 1980, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Investigators were able to link forensic evidence from the crime scene to Parkinson. Authorities did not elaborate on the investigation.

L.A. Renews Rewards In Two Double Homicides
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to renew two unrelated rewards — both involving double homicides from years ago — in hopes of finding the killers of a young man who volunteered at the sheriff's Norwalk Station and his friend, as well as whoever shot two other young fathers to death at a Compton gas station. Supervisor Janice Hahn recommended extending a $25,000 reward in the 2011 killing of 19-year-old aspiring deputy Cesar Rodriguez and 24-year-old Larry Villegas in an unincorporated area near Whittier. Set to expire Wednesday, the reward will now be available for at least another 90 days. Rodriguez, of Whittier, and Villegas were shot as they stood in front of a house in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2011. The driver of a gray Scion sedan with two or three passengers pulled up in front of the men, pulled out a handgun and fired several shots.

Drifter Indicted On Murder Charge In Malibu Creek Campground Killing
A transient accused of killing a father at Malibu Creek State Park was indicted for murder by a Los Angeles County grand jury, moving the case against Anthony Rauda closer to trial. The indictment was unsealed Tuesday during a hearing at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles. It also charges Rauda, 43, with 10 counts of attempted murder and five counts of burglary. Rauda was wheeled into court by two LA County Sheriff's deputies and a sergeant with his body, arms, and legs strapped to a "safety chair." One of the deputies recorded video with a small camera any time Rauda was being moved. Through his attorneys Rauda entered not guilty pleas to the charges and will return to court within the next two months to set hearing and trial dates.

6 US Children, 3 Women Killed In Drug Cartel Ambush In Mexico; 8 Children Found Alive
Drug cartel gunmen ambushed three SUVs along a dirt road, slaughtering at least six children and three women — all of them U.S. citizens living in northern Mexico — in a grisly attack that left one vehicle a burned-out, bullet-riddled hulk, authorities said Tuesday. The dead included 8-month-old twins. Eight children were found alive after escaping from the vehicles and hiding in the brush, but at least five had bullet wounds or other injuries and were taken to Phoenix for treatment. The attackers apparently killed one woman, Christina Langford Johnson, after she jumped out of her vehicle and waved her hands to show she wasn't a threat, according to an account published by family members and corroborated by prosecutors and a relative in a telephone interview. Around the ambush scene, which stretched for miles, investigators found over 200 shell casings, mostly from assault rifles.
Los Angeles Daily News

Fresh Data Shows How Focused Deterrence Can Keep At-Risk People From Crime
For the past 30 years, Detroit has struggled to contain a persistent homicide problem. Since 1990, the earliest year for which reliable data exists, the city's murder rate slipped below the country's top five only once. The year was 1996, and Detroit ranked sixth. The vast majority of Detroit's violence scars the city's East and West Sides. In 2013, the Detroit Police Department decided to tailor its response to these hot spots with an evidence-based intervention called focused deterrence, in which police use data to directly intervene with people at a high risk for involvement in violent crime. Detroit's focused deterrence strategy is part of a national program called Ceasefire. Officers using this intervention partner with social workers and parole officers to arrange call-ins with at-risk people, where they emphasize the legal and lethal risks of criminal behavior, and steer them to social service programs like GED courses and job training.
The Trace

Public Safety News

LA County Supervisors Really, Really Want You To Get A Flu Shot
Many seniors avoid getting a potentially life-saving flu vaccination based on misinformation, Los Angeles County officials said Tuesday. Seventy-seven of the 125 county residents who died of flu-related illnesses last flu season were 65 years old or older, according to the Department of Public Health, which prompted Supervisor Hilda Solis to recommend more outreach to older residents, especially in underserved minority communities. “Every winter the flu virus affects many of our loved ones,” she said, calling it “essential to focus on prevention efforts.” Solis raised a particular concern about Chinese-Americans living in the San Gabriel Valley. Flu-related illness was the No. 3 cause of death for seniors in this group, she said.
Los Angeles Daily News

California Fire Season Likely To Last Through December, With No Rain In Sight The sun was beginning to set on Halloween when a small fire began to glow on a hillside near Santa Paula. Within seconds — fanned by the most potent Santa Ana winds of the season — the blaze roared to life with immense speed, chewing through thousands of acres of bone-dry brush and eventually consuming homes. Devastating fire weather that ushered in a flurry of blazes across the state last month helped the Maria fire, which charred nearly 10,000 acres in four days, earn the title of this year's largest Southern California wildfire. However, experts caution the blaze may be a preview of what could be a long season of devastating fires amid gusty winds and dry conditions. A report from the National Interagency Fire Center, released Friday, predicts a higher-than-normal chance for other large fires in Southern California through December, with a late start to the rainy season looking increasingly likely.
Los Angeles Times

Local Government News

L.A. City Council's President Wants To ‘Pull Out All The Stops' For More Affordable Housing. Here's How
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson proposed today that all city-owned land designated for housing be used to build affordable units. “We are in the midst of a crisis and need to pull out all the stops to develop more affordable housing across Los Angeles,” Wesson said. “There are thousands of underdeveloped city-owned lots, close to transit lines that are ideal for new affordable housing.” His motion will initially go before the council's Housing Committee, where it is expected to be heard in the coming weeks. According to Wesson's proposal, Los Angeles has the second-least affordable housing market in the United States, behind only San Francisco, which he said can be attributed to under-building of affordable housing in Los Angeles County. Wesson's office said Los Angeles County has a housing shortfall of nearly 520,000 units affordable to the lowest-income renters, and there are more people who qualify for affordable housing and are rent-burdened than there are affordable properties.
Los Angeles Daily News

Bel-Air Mega-Mansion Should Be Torn Down, City Officials Say
Los Angeles city prosecutors are calling for an unfinished megamansion in Bel-Air to be torn down to its foundation, the latest twist in the saga over a colossal building at the center of criminal charges, court battles and an FBI investigation. Until recently, city officials had been working with real estate developer Mohamed Hadid to bring the building in line with city codes, requiring only parts of the building to be removed. But last week, City Atty. Mike Feuer and his prosecutors stepped up their demands, saying that a structural engineer had found that key structures supporting the building were deficient. In a filing, they asked a judge to stiffen the probation conditions for Hadid, requiring him to continue demolishing the building and leave only the parts of the foundation that had been driven into the ground.
Los Angeles Times


Law Enforcement News - Tue, 11/05

LAPD Searching For Person Of Interest In Fatal Van Nuys Hit-And-Run
Los Angeles police have named a 21-year-old North Hills man a person of interest in connection with a deadly hit-and-run crash in Van Nuys that killed a 22-year-old man. The crash happened about 10 p.m. Friday on Sepulveda Boulevard, south of Hatteras Street, when the victim exited a vehicle and ran across the street where he was struck by a speeding white Infiniti G37 heading northbound. Security video released by police appeared to show the Infiniti street racing with another vehicle before the crash. The victim, identified as Neri Ramirez Chalo, died at the scene. The vehicle that struck Chalo was found about a half mile away from the scene of the accident. Police are now looking for Roberto Ocampo, who has been identified as a person of interest in the case. He is a Hispanic man, about 5-foot-8-inches tall and 160 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Domestic Dispute Escalates Into Car Chase, Ends With SUV Nearly Crashing Into Reseda Home
A man was taken into custody Sunday after a car nearly crashed into a house in Reseda following an argument between the man and a female which escalated into a car chase. Details surrounding the nature of the domestic dispute between the couple were not immediately available, but it ended with the woman driver barreling onto the yard of a home near the corner of Vanowen Street and Zelzah Avenue around 1 p.m., according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Witnesses say the man was chasing the woman driver. The woman behind the wheel of the SUV rammed through a fence and short brick barrier and ended up on the front yard, managing to avoid causing any significant damage to the house. The man was seen in handcuffs at the scene where the car crashed and the woman was reportedly taken to a hospital for unknown injuries.

West Hills Elementary School On Lockdown While LAPD Searches For Stolen-Vehicle Suspect; Arrest Made
Hamlin Elementary School in the West Hills area was placed on a precautionary lockdown Monday while police tracked down a stolen vehicle suspect in the neighborhood. Officers went to the 22600 block of Hamlin Street about 8:50 a.m., said Los Angeles police Officer Drake Madison. Police established a perimeter and urged people to stay out of the area. The man was taken into custody late Monday morning, and the school lockdown was lifted. The suspect's name was not immediately released.
Los Angeles Daily News

Man, 71, Visiting From Mexico Goes Missing In Westlake District
Police Monday sought the public's help in locating a 71-year-old man visiting from Mexico in need of medical attention who went missing in the Westlake district. Victor Acosta, who is not familiar with the area, was last seen about 6 p.m. Thursday in the 500 block of South Coronado Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, which reported that Acosta “is believed to need medical attention.” No details were made available about his medical needs. Acosta is Hispanic, 5-feet-5, about 170 pounds. He was wearing a tan shirt and black baseball cap when last seen. Anyone with information regarding Acosta's whereabouts was urged to call the LAPD's Missing Persons Unit at 213-996-1800 to speak with Detective Merrill. After hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 877-LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS or

Armenian Power Gang Leader Sentenced To Prison In Southern California Case For Crimes Including $1 Million 99 Cents Only Debit-Card Skimming Scam
The co-leader of an Armenian street gang was sentenced Monday to nearly 18 years behind bars for multiple federal racketeering crimes, including a debit-card-skimming operation that siphoned more than $1 million from customers of 99 Cents Only stores across the Southland. Mher “Mike” Darbinyan, 44, formerly of Valencia, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to pay $170,000 in fines and restitution to the victimized financial institutions. According to court papers, he faces deportation to his native Armenia once he is released from prison. Darbinyan was found guilty in Los Angeles federal court five years ago of more than four dozen criminal counts, including bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and was sentenced to a 32-year prison term. However, an appeals court overturned the convictions. Rather than face a second trial, Darbinyan pleaded guilty to 30 counts.
Los Angeles Daily News

Almost 1 Million Illegal Marijuana Plants Seized In California
Three years after Californians decided to legalize and license marijuana farms, state law enforcement raids this year seized nearly 1 million pot plants from illicit grows, a jump from last year highlighting that the black market remains a persistent problem. The just-concluded growing season saw the state's main enforcement program conduct 345 raids of illegal grow sites throughout California and the eradication of 953,459 marijuana plants, up from 254 raids last year that seized 614,267 pot plants, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Monday. Law enforcement agencies working together in the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting program arrested 148 people and seized 168 weapons during this year's raids, up from 52 arrests and 100 firearms confiscated during last year's growing season. “Illegal cannabis grows are devastating our communities,” Becerra said.
Los Angeles Times

DEA Warns Of Counterfeit Pills Containing Deadly Doses Of Fentanyl
Federal authorities in San Diego issued a warning to the public Monday regarding the severe dangers posed by counterfeit prescription pills containing the extremely potent and often deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 92 local deaths involving the drug, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "That's how many of our neighbors in San Diego County have died from a fentanyl drug overdose so far in 2019," DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers said. "That is 92 too many. The game has changed. Fentanyl is a killer, and our drug dealer or best friend are the murderers." Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl for distribution throughout North America, according to the federal agency.

Public Safety News

SoCal Can Expect More Large Blazes With Hot, Dry Conditions Likely To Extend Fire Season Through December
Last month's firestorms that saw dozens of homes consumed by flames across Southern California was just the beginning of what's expected to be a long, dry fire season for the region. The potential for destructive blazes will remain higher than usual for the rest of the year, with above-average temperatures and weak rainfall extending tinderbox conditions, according to the latest seasonal outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center. Temperatures are forecast to remain above average through early 2020, while wet weather is expected to arrive late this winter and will likely deliver below average rainfall. There's only a slight chance of more intense wind events than usual through the end of December, but winds that do come will have an easy time igniting a fire in exceedingly dry brush, experts say.

Local Government News

What Do You Think Of LAX's New Airport Pickup System? L.A. City Council Committee Wants To Know
After curbside taxi and ride-sharing pickups became a thing of the past last week, travelers coming home from Los Angeles International Airport had mixed opinions about the airport's new shuttle bus service. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, for example, heard complaints from many constituents, according to spokesman Branimir Kvartuc. “The other day someone in San Pedro said it took them four hours to get from LAX,” Kvartuc said. “The wait times for an Uber can be up to an hour.” Airport officials are scheduled to address these and other issues Tuesday, Nov. 5, at a meeting with the Los Angeles City Council's Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee. The meeting is set to begin at 2 p.m., at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Members of the public are invited to share their opinions, and representatives for Uber and Lyft may also attend the meeting, Kvartuc said, adding that organizers were in the process Monday of inviting them.
Los Angeles Daily News

Don't Call It `Blue'; Metro Unveils Renovated 'A Line'

Light rail service between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach is now fully restored as an eight-month, $350 million renovation project comes to an end. The previously known "Blue Line'' is now the "A Line,'' as Metro slowly begins the process of switching from colors to letters to designate its rail and express bus lines. Renovation work on the line, Metro's oldest and historically busiest rail route, began in late January, fully closing the southern portion of the railway between Compton and Long Beach for four months. The construction switched to the northern portion of the line -- between Compton and downtown Los Angeles -- at the end of May. The renovation project included new switches, an upgraded control system, new overhead power system, new digital information screens and other technology at stations designed to make the rail system easier to navigate. 
FOX 11


Law Enforcement News - Mon, 11/04

Man Who Killed Michigan Deputy During Pursuit Found Guilty
An Oakland County Circuit Court jury has found a 24-year-old man who struck and killed a sheriff's deputy with his vehicle during a 22-mile pursuit two years ago guilty of first-degree murder and homicide of a peace officer. Christopher Berak rammed into Oakland County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Overall, a 22-year veteran of the force, as Overall, 50, was laying out "stop sticks" on the street to try to end a bizarre pursuit that began in Lapeer County on Thanksgiving Day in 2017, according to previous Free Press reports. “Today, we now have closure in the line of duty death of Deputy Eric Overall, who served his time at the Oakland County Sheriff's Office with dignity, integrity, and grace," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement Friday. "His family, friends and our agency have a void which will never be filled as a result of the tragic loss of Eric. His impact will not be forgotten."
Detroit Free Press

North Carolina Officer Shot During FBI Operation
A Gastonia police officer was shot early Friday while working in an FBI operation to serve a search warrant related to a criminal investigation, authorities said. The male officer has non-life-threatening injuries, said John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI's North Carolina office. Multiple shots were fired, he said, and one person is in custody being questioned about the incident. The officer who was shot was part of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, which involves the FBI and local agents who are deputized to work with federal agents. The task force focuses on gangs, drugs and organized crime, Strong said. The shooting happened at about 6 a.m. in the 4500 block of Oakburn Drive near Old Statesville Road, Strong said. It was still dark out when shots were fired as officers approached a house, Strong said.
Charlotte Observer

Pedestrian Struck And Killed By Hit-and-Run Driver In Van Nuys
A pedestrian was struck and killed late Friday night in a hit-and-run in Van Nuys, the Los Angeles Police Department said. The name of the victim has not been released and was only described as a man in his 30s. LAPD says the victim was crossing the street outside the crosswalk in the area of Hatteras Street and Sepulveda Boulevard at about 10 p.m. when he was struck and killed. A description of the hit-and-run driver was not immediately known. Police say the suspect was driving a white vehicle. No further details were immediately known. The investigation is ongoing.
FOX 11

LA's Crime Rate 26% Higher On Halloween, According To LAPD Data
The city of Los Angeles sees an average of about 150 more crimes on Halloween than on a normal day, a 26% increase, according to 2014-2018 data from the Los Angeles Police Department. The types of crime, as well as the number of crimes relative to each neighborhood are fairly consistent with normal crime rates, but are elevated on Halloween. LAPD Detective Bill Bustos attributes the spike to the fact that there are simply more people out on the streets, many in costumes and masks, so they feel like they can just "get lost in the crowd," he said. Bustos said he has also noticed even more elevation in crime when Halloween falls on a weekend. More people participate, he said, and aren't worried about getting to school or work in the morning and might stay out later. That's consistent with the crime data. In 2014 when Halloween was on a Friday, crime was 56% higher than a normal day.

Boy Who Was Dragged 1,500 Feet In South L.A. Hit-and-Run Released From Hospital 3 Months Later
A 16-year-old-boy who was critically injured after being struck in a hit-and-run in August was released from the hospital on Friday, according to Los Angeles Police Department Detective Moses Castillo. Roberto Diaz, who was 15 at the time, was hit on Aug. 6 on Maple Avenue near East 37th Street in the Historic South-Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, by a suspect who remains at large, authorities said. The teenager was dragged about 1,500 feet before his body was dislodged from the vehicle. Diaz has since undergone 11 to 12 surgeries, according to his mother, Belen Garcia, and still needs physical therapy. But he is now able to walk with a special boot on his right leg and with a walker, although he gets tired and needs to take breaks, Garcia said. "It's a miracle because they were talking about amputating his leg," Castillo said. "We are very thankful and grateful to see that Roberto has made a remarkable recovery." Diaz visited the LAPD Central Traffic Division after his release from the hospital on Friday, where he shook hands with Castillo and other officers who had worked on his case.

LA Man Accused Of Threatening Suicide To Pressure Teen Girls Into Sending Him Naked Pictures
Law enforcement officers on Friday arrested a Los Angeles man on child sexual exploitation charges, alleging he met at least eight teenage girls on the internet and pressured them — sometimes by threatening suicide — into sending him sexually explicit images of themselves. Francisco Sanchez, 30, of Koreatown, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon on an 11-count federal grand jury indictment in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Sanchez is charged in the indictment with seven counts of production of child pornography, one count of distribution of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography and two counts of cyberstalking, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. According to the indictment, between January 2014 and September 2016, Sanchez, posing as a teenage boy, contacted teenage girls online, using the pseudonym Eddie Nash to conceal his identity.
Los Angeles Daily News

Man And Woman From L.A. Accused Of Sex Trafficking 15-Year-Old Girl In San Bernardino
Deputies in San Bernardino arrested a man and woman and rescued a 15-year-old girl who investigators say was being forced into prostitution by the suspects earlier this week. Peter Paul Castillo, 30, and Johnette Amanda Terrell, 18, both of Los Angeles, were booked on suspicion of human trafficking charges, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a written statement. Castillo was out on bail in connection with a previous San Bernardino County human trafficking case against him that remains pending. San Bernardino Police Department officers first pulled over a car about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in the area of 6th Street and F Street, officials said. The car contained Castillo, Terrell and a 15-year-old girl who had been reported as a runaway in Los Angeles County.

Florida Detectives Hope Amazon Echo Recordings Could Solve Bizarre Murder Case

Detectives in Hallandale Beach, FL, believe two Amazon Echo devices in the home of a woman who was killed in a bizarre incident may help them solve a murder case. According to a search warrant obtained by CBS 4 News, Hallandale Beach Police asked a judge to order Amazon to turn over audio recordings from a pair of Amazon Echo Dot devices in the condo Silvia Galva Crespo shared with her husband, Adam Crespo. Detectives indicate in the warrant that they believe the devices might have captured audio of what led up to and what occurred during her death this past July when the blade of a spear pierced her chest, killing her. According to a police arrest report, Crespo and Galva argued one night in July and Crespo tried to pull her off a bed but Silvia grabbed onto a spear to keep herself on the bed. The police report says “While (Adam Crespo) was still pulling her from the bed he heard a snap. (Adam Crespo) turned around and discovered shortly after the blade had penetrated the victim's chest. (Adam Crespo) pulled the blade out of the victim's chest ‘hoping it was not too bad.'” Galva died and Crespo is charged with second-degree murder. Court records show he has pled not guilty.
Police Magazine

Public Safety News

Fire Department Releases Surveillance Video Showing Moments North Hollywood Auto Shop Goes Up In Flames
The Los Angeles Fire Department has determined what caused a massive blame at an auto body shop in North Hollywood. Surveillance video captured the exact moment the fire sparked. Video shows a cloud of smoke appear inside the building then the sparking of an apparent spontaneous combustion fire. The fire department says rags with painting-related chemicals on then spontaneously combusted due to a chemical reaction. “This is a sobering reminder to properly dispose of oily and chemical-soaked rags properly,” the department said in a statement. The fire broke out at a building near Lankershim Blvd. and Vanowen Street around 11:30 p.m. Friday. The address corresponds to a business named Auto Giant Supplies. Once on scene firefighters found a 10,614-square-foot business engulfed in flames. They made their way into the building and cut holes in the roof to ventilate the fire, but as the fire continued to grow, crews were ordered off the roof and out of the building to assume a defensive posture said Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
FOX 11

LAFD Opens Replacement For The Department's Oldest Active Fire Station

The grand opening celebration for the fire station in Van Nuys replacing the Los Angeles Fire Department's oldest active station will be held Saturday. The celebration is set to begin at 9 a.m. and will include a pancake breakfast and a bounce house and face painting for children. The 18,533 square-foot Station 39 at 14615 Oxnard St. replaces the previous Station 39 at 14415 Sylvan St., across from the Van Nuys Civic Center. The new station has enough room for two fire engines, one ladder truck, two rescue ambulances, and a battalion chief command vehicle, according to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, whose district includes the new station. The two-story facility contains living quarters for on-duty personnel, a fitness and wellness area, office space, a conference room, and an above- ground 4,000-gallon fuel tank, Martinez said.

California Wildfires Are Mostly Under Control, But Fire Risk Remains High
The California wildfires that scorched thousands of acres and prompted mass evacuations across the state in recent weeks are largely under control, but experts warn that hot and dry conditions will continue to elevate fire risk throughout the week. The Maria fire, which broke out atop South Mountain just south of Santa Paula in Ventura County on Thursday night and spread to nearly 10,000 acres, was 70% contained as of Sunday evening, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. All mandatory evacuation orders were lifted Saturday. “We're pretty much in the mop-up stage,” fire Capt. Steve Kaufmann said. Crews continued to work on containment lines over the weekend and paid especially close attention to the county's avocado and citrus orchards threatened by the flames. Two structures were burned, but no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is unknown.
Los Angeles Times

Local Government News

L.A. Leaders Want To Create An Affordable Housing Complex In Chinatown
Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo and County Supervisor Hilda Solis today announced they will pursue creating a joint county-city affordable housing development in Chinatown. Cedillo, in a prepared statement, said they are doing this jointly to make a transit-oriented, mixed-use affordable housing development on land the county owns at 725 N. Spring St., also known as Parking Lot No. 45, which he said offers a suitable space that could generate "multiple public benefits." The housing complex would be about 1,000 feet from the Metro Gold Line Chinatown Station. The statement did not mention how many units it would possibly provide. "We are committed to deliver a project with 100% affordable housing, serving a range of targeted incomes, from extremely low-income to moderate-income households," Cedillo said. 
FOX 11

L.A. Suspends Uber For Refusing To Provide Real-Time Data On Its Scooters And Bikes
Following months of conflict over a controversial data-sharing policy, Los Angeles has temporarily suspended Uber's permit to rent electric scooters and bicycles on city streets and sidewalks. The company's subsidiary, Jump, must appeal the decision by Friday or leave the city, the Transportation Department told the company in a letter last week. For now, customers can still rent the vivid red scooters and electric bikes through the Jump app. In response, Uber threatened in a letter to sue the city over the “patently unfair and improper” suspension. The letter also questioned the validity of the “eleventh-hour administrative review process” that the city created last month. “Every other company that is permitted in Los Angeles is following the rules,” said Transportation Department spokeswoman Connie Llanos. “We look forward to being able to work with Uber on getting them into compliance.”
Los Angeles Times

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