Israeli strike destroys Gaza building with AP, other media

By Fares Akram and Joseph Krauss | Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — An Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. Hours later, Israel bombed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a top leader of Gaza’s ruling militant Hamas group.

The Israeli military said Al-Hayeh’s home served as part of what it said was the militant group’s “terrorist infrastructure.” Al-Hayeh is a senior figure in the Hamas political leadership in Gaza, and the attack marked a further escalation, signaling that Israel is going after Hamas’ top leadership, and not just military commanders. His fate after the strike was not immediately known.

Earlier, AP staffers and other tenants safely evacuated the building after the military telephoned a warning that the strike was imminent within an hour. Three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it in a giant cloud of dust.

For 15 years, the AP’s top-floor office and roof terrace were a prime location for covering Israel’s conflicts with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, including wars in 2009 and 2014. The news agency’s camera offered 24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surrounding area this week.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza.”

“This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” he said, adding that the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and was engaged with the U.S. State Department to learn more.

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The building also housed the offices of Qatari-run Al-Jazeera TV, as well as residential apartments. The Israeli military said Hamas was operating inside the building, a standard explanation, and it accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields. But it provided no evidence to back up the claims.

Hours earlier, another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, the deadliest single strike of the current conflict.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Israel “provide a detailed and documented justification” for the strike.

“This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza,” the group’s executive director, Joel Simon, said in a statement.

Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, on Saturday.

The latest outburst of violence started in Jerusalem and spread across the region over the past week, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising, when peace talks have not taken place in years. Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.

U.S. diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

As the hostilities continued, an Israeli bombardment struck a three-story house in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp on Saturday morning, killing eight children aged 14 and under and two women from an extended family.

Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with her brother’s wife and three of their children. All were killed instantly, he said. The only known survivor from Hadidi’s family was his 5-month-old son Omar; another son, 11-year-old Yahya, was missing, he said.

Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

“There was no warning,” Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same building, said. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?” he said, addressing Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

The strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon, after the owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that the building would be hit within the hour. A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the building’s owner, Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer to wait 10 minutes to allow journalists to go inside the building to retrieve valuable equipment before it is bombed.

“All I’m asking is to let four people … to go inside and get their cameras,” he says. “We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don’t allow it, but give us 10 minutes.” When the officer rejected the request, Mahdi said, “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God.”

Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” Halla Mohieddeen. on-air anchorperson for Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

Later in the day, the White House responded by saying Israel had a “paramount responsibility” to ensure the safety of journalists covering the spiraling conflict. U.S. President Joe Biden has urged a deescalation in the 5-day conflict between Hamas and Israel, but has publicly backed Israel’s right to self-defense from Hamas rockets fired from Gaza.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Saturday that the U.S. had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.”

A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to U.N.-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimize collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not “feasible this time.”

Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.

Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents’ misery. The territory’s sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.

The U.N. said Gazans already are experiencing daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property.

Late on Friday, someone threw a firebomb at an Arab family’s home in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, striking two children. A 12-year-old boy was in moderate condition with burns on his upper body and a 10-year-old girl was treated for a head injury, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.

The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks.


Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.


Source: Orange County Register

Anaheim man arrested on suspicion of attempting to kill wife at youth sports event

A 43-year-old Anaheim man was arrested in Garden Grove for allegedly attempting to kill his estranged wife, who was watching their son play sports, Garden Grove police reported today.

The arrest came Thursday around 7:05 p.m. at the Chapman Sports Complex located at 11701 Knott St., Garden Grove police Sgt. Vince Vaicaro said.

The attack occurred as several youth sporting events were underway on the field, Vaicaro said.

The unidentified woman was alerted by her son that her husband, identified as Russel Husges, was coming up behind her in the stands allegedly armed with kitchen knives, according to Vaicaro.

The intended victim ran away from Husges onto the field screaming for help, Vaicaro said. Husges was then subdued and disarmed by one of the coaches and an off-duty police officer.

Husges was then placed in custody and booked on a charge of attempted murder, Vaicaro said.

 


Source: Orange County Register

Latinos are the most eager to get vaccinated, survey shows – but face obstacles

Hispanics who have yet to receive a COVID-19 shot are about twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites or Blacks to say they’d like to get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to a survey released Thursday, May 13. The findings hint at fixable, though difficult, vaccine access problems for the population.

One-third of unvaccinated Hispanics say they want the shots, compared with 17% of Blacks and 16% of whites, according to the survey released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

The results reflect an opportunity for public health departments and local governments to reach out to Hispanics with information and vaccinating teams, said Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser Family Foundation and director of the organization’s monthly COVID-19 vaccine surveys.

“There definitely is a large chunk of the Hispanic population that’s eager to get it, but they just have either not been able to fit it into their schedule, or they have some concerns or questions or they haven’t been able to access it,” Hamel said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 13% of people in the U.S. who have received at least one vaccine dose are Hispanics, though they make up about 17% of the overall population. (Only about half of the CDC’s data includes the race or ethnicity of vaccinated individuals.)

Among unvaccinated Hispanics, 64% were worried about missing work because of vaccine side effects, and 52% were concerned about having to pay for the shots – although the shots are offered at no cost. These numbers are even higher for Hispanics who lacked lawful permanent resident status.

“It’s hard for somebody who lives day-to-day to take off half a day to come to a clinic and try to get a vaccination,” said Dr. José Pérez, chief medical officer of the South Central Family Health Center, a nonprofit health organization with clinic locations throughout South Los Angeles. “If they don’t work that day, they don’t earn a living and they don’t eat.”

Those facing immigration issues were more likely to be worried about being asked to show government-issued ID or a Social Security number, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies scared people away from seeking any public health services, for fear it could jeopardize their immigration status, Pérez said.

“For Americans who are used to having order in their life, and don’t have to be fearful of this or that, this may seem a little bit foreign,” he said. “But for the immigrant community in South L.A., these are factors that they deal with on an everyday basis.”

Despite the survey’s hopeful message, Pérez’s organization has administered only a fraction of the doses it has on hand, although it has expanded vaccination sites and now offers a shot to anyone who walks into one of its clinics, Pérez said.

“All we can do is continue to push, educate and continue to put our name out there,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll catch up.”

The Biden administration recently announced tax credits for small businesses that give their workers paid time off to get the shot and recover in case of side effects. Providers are not allowed to charge people for the COVID-19 vaccine, and must give out shots regardless of immigration status or health insurance coverage.

In California, where Hispanics make up nearly 40% of the population, 48% of COVID-19 deaths and 63% of infections, about 32% have received vaccinations. Cases and deaths are especially concentrated in dense, low-income neighborhoods that are majority Latino.

Community health clinics and organizations throughout the state are taking the case for vaccinations to sidewalks, supermarkets and anywhere else people gather, seeking to ensure people know how to sign up for a shot.

“Vaccine hesitancy” has become a catch-all excuse to explain low rates of vaccinations among minority populations, but the problem is complex, said Nancy Mejía, chief program officer of Latino Health Access in Santa Ana,  a nonprofit that contracts with Orange County to bring COVID-19 vaccine to Latinos.

Her group’s community health workers, or promotoras, encounter people who face a wide variety of obstacles to get the shot, she said.

“We hear all of these questions about, ‘Well, I don’t have health insurance,’ or ‘Do I have to pay?’ or ‘I don’t have email, how do I register?’” Mejía said. “When folks talk about hesitancy, we really have to ask what it is that we’re talking about, and not continue to place blame on individuals who actually have really good questions.”

Now that demand for vaccine appointments has plunged, Mejía and her group are focusing more on mobile vaccine events at condominium buildings, swap meets and parking lots where pedestrians and residents can simply walk up. The events are happening in the evenings after work or on the weekends to make the decision to get vaccinated as easy as possible.

“We’re seeing other places that have been open the entire day and gotten only five people in,” she said. “So, for us being open just a few hours in the evening, and getting over 100 people – that’s a success story.”

Carmelo Morales, a 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, used to count himself among the vaccine skeptical. After talking to friends and seeing posts on Instagram, he feared the shots might be a plot to make people sick. He didn’t see the urgency of getting a shot.

But Morales, who works in a meatpacking plant, has been deeply affected by the cases and deaths he has seen among colleagues and their families over the past year. One day in late April, as he was walking home from work, he noticed health care workers at a church near his house packing up after a COVID-19 vaccine event.

He asked if there were any leftover doses, and because his house was nearby, nurses waited for him to run home to get his ID so he could get his first shot.

“I just thought about it and was like, hey, it’d be better just to be maybe on the safer side.”


Source: Orange County Register

Chinese spacecraft has reportedly landed safely on Mars

By Ryan Woo and David Stanway | Reuters

An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the Red Planet.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on the Southern Utopia Plain, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time,” Xinhua said.

A rover, named Zhurong, will now survey the landing site before departing from its platform to conduct inspections.

Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven,” after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to Mars. A probe co-launched with Russia in 2011 failed to leave the Earth’s orbit.

The 5-tonne spacecraft blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan in July last year, launched by the powerful Long March 5 rocket.

After more than six months in transit, Tianwen-1 reached the Red Planet in February where it had been in orbit since.


Source: Orange County Register

Santa Ana clears homeless camp from parking lot at El Centro cultural center

Santa Ana has shut down a homeless encampment that grew over the past year on the private grounds of El Centro Cultural de Mexico near the Civic Center.

The city executed an abatement warrant on Thursday, May 13, to remove the last of what had been as many as 75 tents, sleeping bags and tarp dwellings that the Mexican cultural center at 837 N. Ross St. had allowed homeless people to pitch in its parking lot since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Area residents were contacting city officials about trash, feces and discarded syringes in their neighborhood that they blamed on the people at the encampment. El Centro had said its goal was to provide a safe sleeping spot and help find shelter for the homeless people.

The city acted after the nonprofit organization failed to clear the property by an April 30 deadline in a settlement agreement, said Paul Eakins, spokesman for Santa Ana, on Friday.

Eakins added that outreach workers for the city routinely tried to help the homeless people get services, and that 17 people had accepted shelter during the 45-day settlement grace period. Advocates complained that the city had closed The Link temporary shelter, and that the beds on offer are miles away at the Fullerton Navigation Center.


Source: Orange County Register

Have you been able to get rental assistance?

California and 12 Southern California governments have begun disbursing federal rental assistance, with much more aid on the way.

Have you been able to get rental assistance or do you expect to qualify? Or have you been left out of the programs so far?

Is your landlord cooperating by agreeing to waive 20% of your debt?

If you are a landlord, do you plan to forgive 20% of the unpaid rent for your tenants? Is there enough assistance to cover your losses?

Let us know if rental assistance programs are helping you.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE OUR SURVEY!

A reporter from the Southern California News Group may contact you later to learn more about your circumstances.

 

 

 


Source: Orange County Register

Ex-Green Beret sentenced for conspiring with Russian agents

By Christina Carrega | CNN

A former Army Green Beret was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison for conspiring with Russian agents to provide them with US defense intelligence, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 46, of Gainesville, Virginia, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy, which started back in 1996 when he made frequent visits to Russia to meet with their intelligence agents and at some point was given a code name and signed a settlement “attesting that he wanted to serve” them, prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia said.

“Debbins flagrantly and repeatedly sold out his country,” said Raj Parekh, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The defendant’s brazen disclosures to Russian intelligence agents jeopardized US national security and threatened the safety of his fellow servicemen.”

After he was given the Russian alias, Debbins was encouraged to join the Army, where he served between 1998 and 2005 in chemical units before being selected for the US Army Special Forces and earned a top rank as captain, prosecutors said.


Source: Orange County Register

Laguna Hills assisted-care company charged employees for lodging, made them sleep in kitchens

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $158,854 in back wages for 13 employees of Laguna Hills assisted-living facilities who had lodging expenses deducted from their paychecks even though they were forced to sleep in kitchens and living rooms, federal officials said this week.

Cornerstone Care Inc. was found to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law that protects workers against unfair practices, after a yearlong investigation that concluded in November 2019.

Cornerstone operates three facilities in Laguna Hills that provide short- and long-term care, hospice care and other services. Officials with the company did not respond to requests  for comment.

In addition to charging employees for promised lodging that wasn’t provided, Cornerstone also made them pay for meals they didn’t receive, officials said.

The investigation also found that Cornerstone failed to pay workers for time spent in mandatory trainings on their days off. Additionally, the company didn’t record or pay for time that employees worked during interrupted breaks.

“These essential workers deserve to be paid all the wages they have legally earned,” Eric Murray, district director for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in Phoenix, said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to preventing employers from short-changing workers or making illegal payroll deductions, and gaining an unfair competitive advantage over those employers who play by the rules.”

Over the past five years, the Wage and Hour Division has recovered about $12.5 million in back wages for those working at California senior care facilities and hospitals.

Michael Eastwood, director of enforcement for the Wage and Hour Division’s Western Region, described the fine imposed on Cornerstone as significant. He added that while some workers fear reporting employers to the Department of Labor, businesses must be held accountable.

Employees who believe they are owed back pay can call the Wage and Hour Division’s Orange Area Office at 714-621-1650 or the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).


Source: Orange County Register

Blaze Bernstein murder case to head to trial in June

The trial of Samuel Lincoln Woodward, accused of stabbing his former high school classmate Blaze Bernstein to death and burying him in a Lake Forest park, can begin in June, attorneys in the case said Friday.

The June 28 trial date was in question because public defender Alison Worthington, one of Woodward’s lawyers, had a potential conflict with another trial. But on Friday, she told the judge she intends to be ready.

“I don’t anticipate that there will be any delay in starting the trial on June 28,” she said.

A nearly week-long search for Bernstein, the discovery of his body followed closely by the arrest of his former Orange County School of the Arts classmate Woodward and the subsequent unveiling of Woodward’s alleged ties to Atomwaffen Division, an armed fascist organization, drew widespread attention to the Jan. 2018 killing.

Woodward is facing a murder charge with enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon and a hate crime enhancement for allegedly killing Bernstein, who was gay. What role, if any, his alleged involvement with Atomwaffen Division played in the suspected slaying of Bernstein, who was Jewish, isn’t clear.

Woodward and Bernstein met up during their respective winter breaks, with Woodward later telling investigators that he drove the two of them to Borrego Park. Woodward told detectives that Bernstein kissed him on the lips, causing him to push Bernstein away and Bernstein to apologize.

Woodward reportedly told the detectives that Bernstein then walked off into the park and never returned. But prosecutors allege that Woodward stabbed Bernstein to death and buried his body in the dirt at the edge of the park.

The next day, Bernstein’s parents reported him missing. Six days later his body was found.

Detectives during earlier court hearings testified to finding a knife with blood matched to Bernstein in a drawer in Woodward’s bedroom, along with blood in Woodward’s vehicle that they matched to both Woodward and Bernstein. A sleeping bag with what appeared to be blood stains was also found outside Woodward’s home, near the window to his room.

Detectives have also described finding images with references to “Nazism” and homophobia on Woodward’s phone.

A previous attorney who represented Woodward during the earlier hearings elicited testimony about Woodward’s apparently conflicted attitude toward homosexuality and his own sexual identity. That attorney didn’t confirm Woodward’s alleged ties to Atomwaffen Division, but did tell reporters that Woodward had Asperger syndrome – a developmental disorder that can result in someone having difficulty with social interactions – and had tried to connect with others in places where most would not venture.


Source: Orange County Register

Gas crunch from cyberattack intensifies in nation’s capital

By JEFF MARTIN, FRANK BAJAK and NOMAAN MERCHANT | Associated Press

Gas shortages at the pumps have spread from the South, all but emptying stations in Washington, D.C., following a ransomware cyberattack that forced a shutdown of the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline. Though the pipeline operator paid a ransom, restoring service was taking time.

As Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline reported making “substantial progress” in restoring full service, two people briefed on the matter confirmed that the company had paid the criminals a ransom of about $5 million in cryptocurrency for the software decryption key required to unscramble their data network. The people spoke on condition they not be further identified because they were not authorized to divulge the information. Bloomberg first reported the payment.

President Joe Biden, when asked by a reporter on Thursday if he had been briefed about the ransom payment, said “I have no comment on that.”

Biden also said that his administration “will pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate. And our Justice Department has launched a new task force dedicated to prosecuting ransomware hackers to the full extent of the law.”

The tracking service GasBuddy.com on Friday showed that 88% of gas stations were out of fuel in the nation’s capital, about half were out in Virginia and 42% of Maryland stations were dry. Nearly 70% of stations were without gas in North Carolina, and about half were tapped out in Georgia and South Carolina.

A gas station owner in Virginia said panic buying is the problem.

“It’s like a frenzy,” Barry Rieger, who owns a gas station in Burke, Virginia, told WJLA-TV.

Colonial said Thursday that operations had restarted and gasoline deliveries were being made in all of its markets, but it would take “several days” to return to normal, and some areas may experience “intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period.”

In North Carolina, at least five school systems canceled in-person learning on Friday as the gasoline supply crisis continued. Wake County, with the largest school system in North Carolina, emailed parents citing “the impact of the gas shortage on staffing availability and student transportation.”

Businesses were also feeling the sting.

At Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, all the maintenance and safety vehicles have to be filled up, but “all the gas stations close to use — within a mile of us — are out of gas,” said Mia Green, the track’s general manager. She’s heard of at least a couple of racetracks in the region that canceled upcoming races this weekend because race crews might not be able to get there due to gas shortages.

Many authorities are warning of the dangers of hoarding gas.

In South Carolina, a woman was severely burned after flipping a car that a deputy tried to pull over for a suspected stolen license plate Thursday night. The fire touched off multiple explosions due to fuel “that she was hoarding in the trunk of the vehicle,” a Pickens County sheriff’s statement said.

In Florida, a 2004 Hummer was destroyed by fire Wednesday shortly after the driver had filled up four 5-gallon (18-liter) gas containers in Homosassa, according to Citrus County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Courtney Marsh. Firefighters doused the blaze and found the melted gas containers. One man was injured, but refused medical treatment, she said.

A cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them hit the pipeline on May 7. The hackers didn’t take control of the pipeline’s operations, but Colonial shut it down to prevent the malware from impacting its industrial control systems.

President Joe Biden said U.S. officials do not believe the Russian government was involved, but said “we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia. That’s where it came from.”

Biden has promised aggressive action against DarkSide, the Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate responsible for the attack. The syndicate’s public-facing darknet site went offline on Thursday and its administrator said in a cybercriminal forum post that the group had lost access to it.

This does not necessarily mean U.S. or allied cyberjockeys knocked it offline. Cybersecurity experts said that DarkSide, which rents out its ransomware to partners to carry out the actual attacks, could have taken it down to prevent Western law enforcement from tracking down the rest of its infrastructure.

And just because DarkSide’s public-facing structure is offline doesn’t mean its backend operations have been impacted, said Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who closely monitors the cybercriminal underground.

DarkSide’s main servers are alive,” said analyst Yelisey Boguslavskiy of the cybersecurity firm Advanced Intelligence. While the servers are hidden, encrypted traffic to and from them is being monitored by threat hunters, he said.

DarkSide stole information from Colonial’s network prior to locking up the data on Friday. It’s not known how long the cybercriminals were inside the network. DarkSide is among the ransomware gangs that employ double extortion, threatening to dump online sensitive data they steal before activating the ransomware. In Colonial’s case, that could potentially include data on contracts with suppliers that would be of keen interest to stock and commodities traders.

DarkSide, in fact, recently offered to share data stolen from victims with inside traders.

It would not be surprising if DarkSide were to disappear, experts noted. Ransomware gangs have dissolved and ‘rebranded’ under different names in the past when the heat was on.

The Colonial Pipeline system stretches from Texas to New Jersey and delivers about 45% of the gasoline consumed on the East Coast.

“We are not out of the woods yet, but the trees are thinning out,” Richard Joswick, global head of oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, said.

Gas stations should be back to normal next week if the pipeline restart goes as planned and consumers are convinced they no longer need to panic-buy fuel, Joswick said. Full recovery would take several more weeks, he estimated.

—-

Bajak reported from Boston, Martin from Marietta, Ga., and Merchant in Washington. Freida Frisaro in Miami also contributed.


Source: Orange County Register

While world hunkered down for pandemic, Discovery Cube underwent a $10-million renovation

As Joe Adams walks past what will soon be a new exhibit at the Discovery Cube, he imagines kids crawling through a maze of lasers, trying to not break any of the beams.

“That’s just one of our real adventures,” said Adams, chief executive of the Santa Ana science center that features the iconic, freeway-close Cube.

Like much of the rest of the state, Discovery Cube Orange County is getting ready to re-open following a stretch of pandemic-induced hibernation. The science center took advantage of the closure to undergo a $10 million-plus renovation. On May 28, it will welcome the public to a remodeled attraction, with several new exhibits and revamped old ones.

One example is the laser maze, inside the “The Vault,” which is part of a new physics-themed area that will include several exhibits. One of those exhibits features “The Raceway,” where kids and adults can build small cars, experimenting with different weights and tires to race on various tracks. In another, guests design airplanes, launch them through hoops, and learn what happens to the forces that guide flight. In another, children can learn about the distribution of mass by laying on a bed of 3,000 nails.

“That’s science in motion,” Adams said, recently, pointing to the mass-themed exhibit known as “Can you survive the bed of nails?”

“The idea here is that if there’s one nail, and you’re standing on it, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to puncture you… (But) when it’s 3,000 nails, and you’ve spread your body weight across them, that’s less than half a pound on each nail. All of a sudden, it feels like a massage because your weight is now distributed.

“It makes kids think: ‘How does that work’?”

The cluster of physics-related exhibits is one of the center’s four new themed areas, each of which features several exhibits and scientific activities. Others include: an early-learners’ area featuring a stationary hot air balloon surrounded by a video screen that helps participants imagine that they’re flying; an organic waste lab, sponsored by Orange County Waste Recycling, that will have interactive game, lots of worms, and lessons on composting; and a new virtual Science of Hockey area, which is sponsored by the Anaheim Ducks and the Samueli Foundation.

The overriding goal is to spark thought through hands-on exploration and experience. If an exhibit can prompt visitors to slow down and consider questions about what they’ve just seen and done, that’ll be a success.

“We don’t want them to just check it out and run off to the next thing,” Adams said. “We want them to have more time to explore, experience the science.”

In keeping with new concerns raised by COVID-19, the renovations also took hygiene and cleanliness into account. Bathrooms were redone to include touch-free faucets and hands-free door openings, and hand washing stations have been added throughout the museum. Also, when it reopens, the center’s capacity will be limited to 50%, or less than 1,600 people at a time.

Hygiene and cleanliness issues even extend to the types of materials used in some exhibits. Adams said the cars in The Raceway, for example, are made of plastic, instead of wood, because plastic is less absorbent and cleans better.

“With Covid, we had to think about how do you clean it? That was important in the new design.”

In designing exhibits, which are all in both Spanish and English, Adams said they also looked at what experience could have the greatest impact.

“If you make science more relevant to kids, help them understand it, or how it might be of use in everyday life, then that’s a better exhibit,” he said.

Adams calls it “an impact pyramid,” saying the best exhibits draw in children and encourage them to spend time playing and thinking.

One long-standing such exhibit, Discovery Market, allows visitors to take a shopping cart and scanner to learn about nutrition by reading food labels and making choices that are healthy and good for the environment. Kids can accumulate points during six different shopping adventures and, if they get enough points, get their photo displayed on a screen.

“What kid doesn’t like a selfie?” Adams said.

In addition to upgrades and new exhibits, the museum is getting a fresh coat of paint, new carpets and new heating and air conditioning units. This summer, the center will revive the popular Bubble Fest, which is usually held in the spring but, after COVID-19 closures, will be held this year July 2-18.

Tickets are on sale for the May 28 opening and can be purchased online at oc.discoverycube.org. Meanwhile, in the next round of upgrades, the Discovery Cube’s popular Dino Quest, which features life-size dinosaurs, will get its own rehab. Those changes, Adams said, are coming the summer of 2022.

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, release a car he built on The Raceway in their new Physics Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, walks through a section under construction in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, builds a car for The Raceway in their new Physics Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, walks past The Raceway in their new Physics Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, watches as Carlos Barraca works on a wall that will be the new Coaches Corner in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joe Adams, CEO of Discovery Cube, in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Discovery Cube’s new Organic Waste Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An interactive game at Discovery Cube’s new Organic Waste Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Discovery Cube’s new Organic Waste Lab in Santa Ana, CA, on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
    (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Source: Orange County Register

Man shot three times in the buttocks while walking on Lakewood street, and he’s not talking about it

LAKEWOOD — A man was shot and wounded while walking on a street in Lakewood, and the shooter remained on the loose Friday morning, authorities said.

The shooting took place about 10:50 p.m. Thursday near the intersection of Del Amo Boulevard and Clair Dell Avenue, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Juan Briseno.

The victim was shot three times in the buttocks and was transported to a hospital for treatment, Briseno said. The victim was not cooperating with detectives, he added.

Briseno said investigators did not yet know if the shooting was gang-related. No suspect description was available.


Source: Orange County Register

Updating address on driver’s license can be done online

Q. Your info about renewing a driver’s license was really great. But what if I need to update the address? I tried doing it online after I renewed, and it seemed to work. However, there doesn’t seem to be a way to get a new one that reflects the change by mail, such as with a renewal. It seems to be hard even to see the change online. Any thoughts? I do think the Department of Motor Vehicles has come a long way with its online services, but in this case more explanation of how the process works and what to expect would be appreciated.

– Mike Knudsen, Coto de Caza

A. Honk is here for you, Mike.

You asked the DMV to update your address on your driver’s license, and, indeed, there is not a way online to ensure that the address was changed, confirmed Nicholas Filipas, a DMV spokesman in Sacramento.

You can wait for the updated address to show up on your license when you renew the license next time.

Or:

“Customers can change their address online, wait at least 10 days, then order a duplicate online to get a new card with the new address without visiting a field office,” Filipas said. “A duplicate license costs $30.”

For those who move, state law requires updating a new address within 10 days.

Q. Hi Honk! Caltrans is working on Alicia Parkway’s northbound on-ramp to the I-5 Freeway.  The original ramp had two lanes with traffic-meter lights allowing two cars per green. The ramp is now down to one lane with a light. However, there is no sign indicating how many vehicles per green, though it appears to be timed for two vehicles. Why would Caltrans reduce the number of vehicles allowed to go and create a painful bottleneck? Isn’t this the kind of thing that Caltrans considers when implementing a project, or does it rely on motorists like you and me to give them some common sense?

Mad in Mission Viejo (AKA  Matthew Jones)

A. Dear Mad in Mission Viejo:

Turns out that is an Orange County Transportation Authority project, in partnership with Caltrans, so Honk turned to OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter.

“A temporary one-lane on-ramp was constructed … to allow construction crews to work on a new retaining wall and two-lane on-ramp to the freeway, which is being widened through the area,” he said. “Temporarily reducing the northbound Alicia on-ramp to one lane is necessary to create a safe work area for crews.”

The OCTA’s traffic-flow experts came to the same conclusion as you, Mad in Mission Viejo, and turned off that meter. They will keep an eye on any congestion out there, Carpenter said, to alleviate any problems.

“Once the new ramp is completed, it will include two lanes and will have an auxiliary lane that connects directly to El Toro Road, which will mean more options for drivers and improved traffic flow,” Carpenter said.

Work began on that ramp in January and is scheduled to conclude in late 2024.

Honkin’ fact: There were 474 motorcycle deaths in 2019, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. While motorcycles are only 3% of the registered vehicles in the state, the California Highway Patrol says, motorcyclist deaths are roughly 15% of road fatalities. (Source: Automobile Club of Southern California).

To ask Honk questions, reach him at honk@ocregister.com. He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: ocregister.com/tag/honk. Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk


Source: Orange County Register

Southern California small businesses applaud Newsom’s relief plan

Struggling small-business owners throughout Southern California are applauding Gov. Newsom’s plan to expand a grant program aimed at keeping them afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many mom-and-pop businesses have been hammered by costs associated with on-again/off-again closures and constantly shifting safety guidelines aimed at protecting employees and customers.

On Thursday, Newsom said he will ask state lawmakers to add $1.5 billion to a program that gives free grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses. It would supplement the program’s $2.5 billion in existing funding, boosting the total to $4 billion.

Jeanie Viveros, who co-owns Tiddlywinks Toys & Games in Orange along with her husband Gilbert, called Newsom’s plan “great news.”

“We’re still not operating up to where we were in 2019, so we could use whatever money is available to help us with marketing and promotions,” she said.

A fixture in Old Towne for eight years, Tiddlywinks sells classic-style toys, games and puzzles. The 2,300-square-foot shop was in the process of boosting its online presence when COVID-19 hit.

“We started that literally weeks before, and when the pandemic hit that pushed us to go full-blown,” she said. “We’re still building our business back up.”

To be eligible for the grants, businesses must have between $1,000 and $2.5 million in annual revenue. They must have been operating before June 1, 2019, and have a physical presence in California.

Newsom also announced $147 million to give eligible businesses a tax credit of up to $1,000 tax credit for each employee they hire. Additional funding would include $95 million for Visit California, a nonprofit that promotes tourism; $250 million to help make up for losses in the state’s ports; and increasing the “CalCompetes” tax credit to $360 million, which encourages businesses to relocate to California.

Viveros says she may tap into the tax credit for businesses that hire. Two college students who had been working there recently left after they graduated to move on to other jobs.

No help from the landlord

Times have also been tough for salon K in Stevenson Ranch. Owner Kim Heinrich said she’s had to repeatedly close her business and furlough workers, only to reopen and rehire them again amid changing COVID-19 mandates.

“We were closed for six months last year,” she said. “When we reopened we were at 20% to 50% capacity, and now we’re at 75%. It’s been horrible because my landlord didn’t work with me at all. There was no reduced rent, and there were threatening emails, even with the rent moratorium in place.”

Heinrich said she’ll likely pursue a grant through the state’s expanded program.

“I’ve already applied for every grant there is,” she said.

Revenue cut in half

Sinfully Sweet Apple Company in downtown Upland didn’t close its doors during the pandemic, it was hit hard. Owner Martha Henderson welcomes Newsom’s idea of a $25,000 grant that doesn’t have to be repaid. (Photo courtesy of Sinfully Sweet Apple Company)

Sinfully Sweet Apple Company in downtown Upland didn’t close its doors during the pandemic, but it was hit hard.

The store lost 50% of its revenue in 2020, according to owner Martha Henderson. Contracts for caramel apples used as prizes or gifts in fundraisers ended up not getting filled.

“By the end of March I got email after email — everyone was canceling their fundraisers because schools were closed,” Henderson said Thursday. “Instead of doing 50,000 apples last year, we did 18,000.”

She received a bridge loan for $10,000 that she now has to pay back, so she welcomes Newsom’s idea of a $25,000 grant that doesn’t have to be repaid.

“I think it is absolutely wonderful,” Henderson said. “I do like that idea.”

Learning to pivot

Shelly Holman, owner of the Collar & Leash Pet Shop in Garden Grove, said the new grant would help her greatly.

Holman, whose family has owned the shop since 1972, said sales dropped as well as grooming services. she said. “Customers went online to buy things like dog toys and many avoided bringing their pets in for services, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.”

She said it’s been hard to figure out how to make all of her payments every week.

“We’re not like the big companies that get to put everything on credit or bargain down prices,” she said.

Amid the chaos, she learned to pivot.

After losing a tenant in an adjacent spot – “and with the pandemic, nobody would rent it out” – she expanded a relatively new wellness center for animals next door.

“You have to be flexible,” she said.

Anja Walker, who closed down her Riverside restaurant the Soup Shoppe early in the pandemic, hadn’t yet heard of Newsom’s proposal but said earlier state and local grants helped her business stay in operation after she reopened it.

Business has improved, she said, since Riverside moved into the orange tier which has allowed inside dining at reduced capacity.

“We were doing a lot of takeout, and it’s slowly transitioned to more indoor,” Walker said.

The grant money will likely disappear fast.

Newsom established a grant program for small businesses in December. About 334,000 businesses applied during the first round of funding, requesting $4.4 billion in grants. But the program only had $500 million to spend. In February, Newsom and lawmakers added $2 billion to the program. Now, he wants to include the additional $1.5 billion from federal relief funds.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Source: Orange County Register

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra visits migrant shelter at Long Beach Convention Center

Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary, visited the temporary migrant shelter at the Long Beach Convention Center on Thursday, May 13, and touted the work there as part of the Biden administration’s broader effort to manage a recent surge of unaccompanied minors seeking to cross the southern border.

“Our federal volunteers and the many staff members here today are working tirelessly to care for the children,” Becerra, California’s former attorney general, said in a statement, “as we move to safely unite them with their parents or legal sponsors.”

Becerra’s visit came as 671 children — mostly girls as young as 5 years old — were being housed at the facility. By Thursday afternoon, 90 kids who had previously been at the shelter had been united with a family member or sponsor, though a spokesman for the facility said that number would likely grow to 102 by the end of the day.

The facility has the capacity to house up to 1,000 kids and is set to cease operations by Aug. 2.

The Long Beach Convention Center was tapped by federal officials earlier this year to be used as a temporary migrant shelter along with several other facilities across the country, mostly in California and Texas, as an influx of children, fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, have made their way to the border without a parent.

Last month, border authorities encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors — a 100% increase from February and an all-time monthly high. But data released this week showed that number fell in April to 17,171, indicating that the surge may be ebbing. The numbers for March and April, though, are still far higher than any other month on record.

Becerra, in his statement, acknowledged the challenges of managing the cases of the tens of thousands of kids who have recently entered the U.S. on their own. But he pointed to the progress the administration has made, which he said included doubling the capacity of shelters like the one in Long Beach by adding more than 14,000 beds, reducing the amount of time that children spend from an average of 40 days to 29 days, and deploying more than 1,000 federal volunteers across the country.

“While we have more work to do to meet the influx of arrivals and tackle the challenges this Administration inherited,” he said, “we are making important strides.”

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Source: Orange County Register