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A New Downtown L.A. Tea Company Reinvents the Brew in Style

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 8:00am
August, from a husband-and-wife team based in the city’s arts district, offers unique flavor blends and a pair of starter kits ideal for holiday gifting.

Voluntary evacuation in Camarillo Springs

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 7:37am

A weaker storm system arrived in the county Monday night and was expected to last through Tuesday morning, followed by a second storm on Tuesday night lasting through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy rainfall and possibly thunderstorms were only expected throughout isolated times in both storms, the agency reported.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services said a voluntary evacuation order was in effect at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Camarillo Springs area due expected rainfall of a quarter inch per hour.

The Ventura County Fire Department and the Sheriff's Office said no reports or calls had come from the Camarillo Springs area as of 5:30 a.m.

As of 5:15 a.m., 24-hour rainfall totals included 0.03 inch for Ojai, 0.23 inch for Ventura, 0.05 inch for Santa Paula, 0.13 inch for Simi Valley, 0.22 inch for Oxnard, 0.10 inch for Camarillo and 0.17 inch for Thousand Oaks. At the upper end, a portion of Matilija Canyon had received .10 inches, according to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.

A high surf advisory was also still in effect Tuesday and expected to last until 7 p.m. Wednesday, the agency reported.

Surf was expected to reach up to 9 feet Tuesday with local sets to 12 feet, the agency reported.

Bookends: Should Writers Respond to Their Critics?

NY Times Books - December 16, 2014 - 7:00am
James Parker and Zoë Heller discuss the pitfalls for writers who directly respond to their critics.

Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy as U.S. Surgeon General

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 6:51am
The Senate on Monday confirmed Vivek Murthy as U.S. Surgeon General, in a 51-43 vote, despite opposition from antigun-control groups concerned about his comments that gun violence is a U.S. public health issue.

Taliban storm Pakistani school, killing 126

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 5:29am

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) - Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing 126 people, officials said, in the worst attack to hit the country in years.

The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the army public school, which has children and teenagers in grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.

The horrific attack, carried out by a relatively small number of militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistani militant group trying to overthrow the government, also sent dozens of wounded flooding into local hospitals as terrified parents searched for their children.

"My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now," wailed one parent, Tahir Ali, as he came to the hospital to collect the body of his 14-year-old son Abdullah. "My son was my dream. My dream has been killed."

The attack began in the morning hours, with about half a dozen gunmen entering the school - and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan. Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and started exchanging fire with the gunmen, he said. Students wearing their green school uniforms could be seen on Pakistani television, fleeing the area.

Outside the school, two loud booms of unknown origin were heard coming from the scene in the early afternoon, as Pakistani troops battled with the attackers. Armored personnel carriers were deployed around the school grounds, and a Pakistani military helicopter circled overhead.

Details were sketchy in the face of the overwhelming tragedy. Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back. Ambulances streamed from the area to local hospitals.

The information minister for the province, Mushtaq Ghani, said 126 people were killed in the attack. Most of the dead were students, children and teenagers from the school, he said. Hospital officials said earlier that at least one teacher and a paramilitary soldier were among the dead.

Pervez Khattak, the chief minister of the province where Peshawar is located, said fighting was still underway in some parts of the school.

The prime minister vowed that the country would not be cowed by the violence and that the military would continue with an aggressive operation launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area to rout militants.

"The fight will continue. No one should have any doubt about it," Sharif said.

It was not clear how many students and staff remained still inside the facility. A student who escaped and a police official on the scene earlier said that at one point, about 200 students were being held hostage. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

One of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first-aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.

When the shooting started, Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.

"Then I saw children falling down who were crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet," he said, speaking from his hospital bed.

Another student, Amir Mateen, said they locked the door from the inside when they heard the shooting but gunmen blasted through the door anyway and started shooting.

The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the bulk of the students are civilian.

There was conflicting information about how many attackers carried out the violence, but it was a relatively small number.

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities. But the chief minister said there were eight attackers, dressed in military uniforms. Two were killed by security forces and one blew himself up, Khattak said. The rest were still fighting.

The Pakistani military spokesman, Asim Bajwa, said on Twitter that five militants had been killed and that security forces had rescued two children and two staff members.

Peshawar has been the target of frequent militant attacks in the past but has seen a relative lull recently.

The Pakistani military launched the military operation in the nearby North Waziristan tribal area in June, vowing that it would go after all militant groups that had been operating in the region. With the launch of the operation, security officials and civilians feared a backlash by militants targeted by the military but until Tuesday, a widespread backlash had failed to materialize.

Tuesday's attack calls into question whether the militants have been crippled by the military or will be able to regroup. This appeared to be the worst attack in Pakistan since the 2008 suicide bombing in the port city of Karachi killed 150 people.

The violence also underscored the vulnerability of Pakistani schools, which was dramatically exposed in the attack two years ago on Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl shot in the head by a Taliban gunman outside her school in Swat Valley for daring to speak up about girls' rights. She survived, becoming a Nobel Prize laureate and global advocate for girls' education but out of security concerns has never returned to Pakistan.

Militants have also blown up schools in the northwest.

"I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us," said Malala in a statement. "I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters, but we will never be defeated."


Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad, and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

Congress Set to Get Lonelier in the Middle

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 5:05am
Capital Journal: President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress seem to want to pull their parties together in the middle, but with fewer centrist lawmakers, that could become a lonelier place, Gerald F. Seib writes.

Bush Aides: Vast Team Awaits Word on 2016

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 4:46am
Jeb Bush appears closer to a decision on whether to enter the 2016 presidential race than most potential rivals, but he has taken few overt steps to lay the groundwork for a campaign.

Ventura approves ban on massage parlors

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 4:23am
Between 2008 and 2014, there was a 44 percent increase in the number of massage establishments in Ventura, according to city officials. During that time period, there were 100 administrative and criminal citations issued against the industry. Their presence has long bothered some city officials and law enforcement, who have seen them used as fronts for prostitution and human trafficking rings.   So when the 2008 state law that cleared the way for so many establishments to open is repealed effective Jan. 1, Ventura will be ready to exert the land-use controls it had lost – or rather, it will stop new businesses from opening while it hammers out those details. Click here for more Ventura Council stories.   The city will start with a 45-day ban on both new parlors and the expansion of existing ones, effective the first of the year. If by then the staff hasn’t finished crafting the ordinance, it could be extended by 10 months and 15 days, not 22 months as indicated in documents initially provided public and the council, Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Lee told the City Council Monday night.   After that, it could be extended one more time for a year, for a total of roughly two years.   The council approved the moratorium unanimously.   The city had long wanted to reign in the establishments and placed restrictions on them: banning window coverings, limiting their hours and requiring businesses to keep the front door unlocked (no buzzers).   But on the bigger picture there was little the city could do. Any action they took to limit the location or density of them applied to doctor, dentist and other wellness offices too.   Assembly Bill 1147 changed that. It returned land-use decisions to cities, giving them the ability to determine how close they can be to a school, for example, or how many can be concentrated in an area.   As the ordinance gets written, staff will include input from the community.   Especially having members from the massage industry “would be an important voice in any discussion,” Council member Erik Nasarenko said.

Budget Battle Is Likely to Heat Up Next Year

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 12:48am
Congress last week barely managed to approve a funding bill negotiated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, working under spending guidelines set by each party’s budget gurus. Next year could get even uglier.

PCH could be closed for a month

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 15, 2014 - 10:07pm

With rain headed to the county, officials said Monday that a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway likely will remain closed for three to four weeks.

PCH has been closed since Friday's storm. The closure runs from Las Posas Road in Camarillo to Yerba Buena Road near Malibu.

Mud, rocks and debris slid across the highway in more than a dozen spots, pushing concrete barriers dozens of feet across the road. The highway is covered with 4 to 6 feet of mud in some spots, Caltrans officials said.

A contractor has been hired to remove mud and debris, put the barriers back in place, and repair road shoulders and a rock wall that were damaged or washed out, officials said.

Potrero Road between Rancho Dos Vientos Drive and Lewis Road also had mud and debris problems Friday and remained closed indefinitely, sheriff's officials said Monday.

Meanwhile, the first of three storms expected this week moved into Ventura County Monday night. Bonnie Bartling, weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, said the storm would bring up to a quarter inch of rain to the county. She said that another storm on Tuesday could drop more than a quarter inch of rain before it moves out on Wednesday.

Bartling was unsure the strength of a storm expected to come through on Friday. The county should start to dry out by Saturday.

The storms could mean up to six inches of snow at elevations of 7,000 feet an above and one to three inches at elevations above 5,000 feet.

Monday morning, radar images of the storm north of San Luis Obispo showed a gentle rain, said John Dumas, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Rainfall rates later had been even less than expected, under one-tenth of an inch an hour, the National Weather Service said.

That's much less than the peak of last week's storm, which brought close to an inch per hour at times. That storm brought tons of mud and rocks down steep slopes and into a Camarillo Springs neighborhood.

No injuries were reported, but 16 homes were significantly damaged, including 10 deemed uninhabitable and three others with serious problems.

The neighborhood sits at the bottom of the Conejo Grade, below steep hills burned in the Springs Fire of May 2013.

Authorities have issued evacuation orders for homes in the neighborhood during recent storms. But Monday night's rain is not expected to prompt such an action.

Officials will send out an alert to residents to let them know about the forecast and urge them to be prepared for any changing conditions.

More rain expected Tuesday night might prompt a voluntary evacuation notice, said John Fraser, a senior management analyst for the city of Camarillo.

If the forecast calls for a quarter-inch of rain an hour or more, authorities likely will issue a voluntary evacuation Tuesday afternoon.

The forecast calls for a half-inch of rain in coastal and valley areas and 1 to 1.5 inches in the mountains, with rainfall rates possibly reaching a quarter-inch an hour.

Over the past several days, crews in Camarillo Springs have been working to prepare for more rain and clear out some of the rocks and debris in the neighborhood, Fraser said.

Cow Economy Faces a Pinch

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 15, 2014 - 9:03pm
U.S. cattle exports have fallen by a third this year, hurting businesses from cattle haulers to the port in Wilmington, Del.

California: Anti-Police Protesters Arrested in Oakland

New York Times - California News - December 15, 2014 - 9:00pm
Protesters blocked streets around Oakland Police Headquarters and chained shut four of its doors Monday.

California: Court Upholds Condom Rule for Actors in Pornographic Films

New York Times - California News - December 15, 2014 - 9:00pm
A Los Angeles County ordinance requiring actors in sex films to use condoms does not violate the industry’s First Amendment rights of free expression, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

To Spur Adoptions, an Oakland Cafe Puts Cats Among the Patrons

New York Times - California News - December 15, 2014 - 9:00pm
Visitors may view a cat cafe as a sort of indoor playspace for cat-loving adults, but the intent at Cat Town Cafe in California is serious.

Pennsylvania Police Hunt for Man Wanted in Shooting Spree

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 15, 2014 - 8:06pm
A manhunt was under way outside Philadelphia for a 35-year-old man suspected of fatally shooting six people and seriously wounding another early Monday.

Inmates to staff fire camp

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 15, 2014 - 7:40pm



An estimated 100 prison inmates will be assigned to a Ventura County firefighting camp to return the facility to full strength, state officials announced Monday.

The first of the inmates are expected to arrive by Wednesday at the property at 2800 Wright Road, west of Camarillo, officials said.

The camp should be fully staffed within a month, said Bill Sessa, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The inmates cut brush to contain fires, working in collaboration with career firefighters. They also help out during other disasters and provide assistance for community projects.

Officials said the high-security camp has been staffed only sporadically over the last few years, leaving the closest full-time fire camps in Palmdale and San Luis Obispo, both around 100 miles away.

"When the Ventura camp closed down, it left a hole," said Dan Berlant, spokesman for Cal Fire, formally known as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The reopening had been held up by funding issues, but the state Department of Finance authorized the money in September, Sessa said.

Earlier this year some homeowners living near the camp objected to the plan, citing fears of declining real estate values and suspicions that the facility could give the state a toehold to open an adult prison in the area. The camp is located near neighborhoods with high real estate values, including Spanish Hills.

County Supervisor Kathy Long said the controversy seemed to have died down since July, when about 50 people turned out for a community meeting. Only lower-level offenders with unblemished behavior records in prison are allowed in the statewide program, Sessa said.

"We have no problems in the community," he said. "No inmate who is serving in the camp wants to jeopardize their status by messing up or creating a problem."

Long supported the proposal, which was recommended by Sheriff Geoff Dean and Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen.

Lorenzen welcomed the decision in a county with a year-round fire season.

"From my perspective this is a wonderful thing," he said Monday.

Lorenzen said the county Fire Department has been short-staffed since 2011, when the staffing of the camp changed from full time to part time. Offenders from the state juvenile lock-up in Camarillo had worked at the camp full time from 1990 to 2011, but there were too few of them left after the population in state institutions was reduced in favor of treating juveniles in the community.

Long said she was a little surprised that the state was opening the camp because the number of people serving time in state prisons for less serious felonies is headed down. People who once would have served time in prison for lower-level felonies have been diverted to local jails. In November, California voters downgraded many crimes from felonies eligible for prison time to misdemeanors, which are punished by probation or jail time.

Long said she asked state fire and corrections officials if they thought they would still have adequate numbers of eligible prisoners to work in the fire camps. They told her they believed they did and would continue to staff the camps until they no longer had adequate recruits, she said.

Sessa said nearly all of the 4,300 slots for inmate firefighters are filled by state prisoners. At most, 200 have come from county institutions, he said.

"Up to now we have not had difficulty," he said.

Sandy Hook Families File Lawsuit Against Gun Manufacturer

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 15, 2014 - 7:31pm
Nine families of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and one survivor have filed suit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., amid some debate over whether their effort can succeed.

Outages in Moorpark and Simi Valley

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 15, 2014 - 7:10pm

Two electrical outages were reported in Simi Valley and Moorpark on Monday.

The Moorpark outage affected some 350 people while the one in Simi Valley left about 55 people in the dark.

Southern California Edison said it expected power would be restored to everyone by Monday night.

Traffic signals at intersections along Erringer Road, including Cochran Street, Los Angeles and Royal avenues, were left in the dark because of the outage, Simi Valley police said Monday evening.

Work crews were placing stop signs at the intersections, police said.

Police said motorists need to make a complete stop at those intersections just as they would at a stop sign.

Outages in Moorpark and Simi Valley

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 15, 2014 - 7:10pm

Two electrical outages were reported in Simi Valley and Moorpark on Monday.

The Moorpark outage affected some 350 people while the one in Simi Valley left about 55 people in the dark.

Southern California Edison said it expected power would be restored to everyone by Monday night.

Traffic signals at intersections along Erringer Road, including Cochran Street, Los Angeles and Royal avenues, were left in the dark because of the outage, Simi Valley police said Monday evening.

Work crews were placing stop signs at the intersections, police said.

Police said motorists need to make a complete stop at those intersections just as they would at a stop sign.

Health Site Holds Up Amid Enrollment Surge

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 15, 2014 - 6:35pm
Consumers rushed to meet a Monday deadline for picking or changing health plans for the new year, creating a surge of visitors to HealthCare.gov that tested the revamped site.
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