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Updated: 1 hour 12 sec ago

Sony made mistake pulling film, Obama says

1 hour 2 min ago

In a year-end speech Friday, President Barack Obama said Sony Pictures made a mistake in keeping "The Interview" out of theaters.

Obama said "the hackers are going to get better too" as America gets better at putting measures into place to prevent acts of terror. He disagrees with the censorship the incident caused.

"Imagine what they start doing when they start seeing a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

"That's not who we are," he said.

"I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you are intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

Earlier Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed it believes North Korea's government is behind the cyber attack.

On Nov. 24, a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" breached Sony's computer systems and leaked salaries and unreleased films. The FBI said it "has enough evidence to confirm" the North Korean government did it, according to reports.

"The Interview," a Sony comedic film about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, the country's totalitarian leader, will not be shown in theaters after terror threats were made.

Some are calling for the U.S. to take steps to declare North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the Associated Press.

North Korea has declined it is involved in the cyber attack. It was on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for 20 years but removed in 2008 by the Bush administration. Countries currently with the designation include Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba, according to the AP.

Also in his speech Friday, Obama touted job growth and the American auto industry, saying it is looking at having its strongest year since 2005.

"Pick any metric that you want — America's resurgence is real, we are better off," he said.

Rotary clubs, police give to Simi Valley kids

1 hour 56 min ago

The Simi Valley Police Department and local Rotary clubs worked together to get gifts for needy children this holiday season, police said.

The department and various Rotary clubs on Dec. 10 assembled bicycles for needy children. The event was held at The Junkyard Cafe, which donated its services. The bicycles were given to churches and charitable organizations in the city for families in need, authorities said.

When the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise heard about the Police Department’s toy drive in support of local families and the local Salvation Army, the club donated 12 bicycles to the cause. The Rotary Club of Simi Valley and the Rotary Club of Simi Sunset were also involved in the bicycle donation, officials said.

Police officers and other staff members volunteered Friday and Saturday to pass out all the donated toys at the fourth annual Salvation Army/Simi Valley Police Department Holiday Toy Give Away. The event supported nearly 300 families in the city, police said.

Applications up at CSU Channel Islands

2 hours 5 min ago

Like other public universities in California, CSU Channel Islands received more applications this year than last.

The Camarillo university had 13,434 applicants, up by 9.6 percent over last year.

Overall, the CSU system had a 2.3 percent increase in applicants this year, reaching 290,473, a record high.

Similarly, the University of California system had a 5.8 percent increase in applicants, reaching 193,873, also a record high.

Deadline for applications to both systems was Nov. 30.

Hung Dang, associate vice president for enrollment management at Channel Islands, believes students are becoming more aware of his campus as it starts to grow and add programs.

But he also acknowledged another potential reason for the growth: Students are applying to more campuses, hedging their bets because there's still intense competition to get into top schools. As long as students meet the qualifications, they will be accepted at Channel Islands, making it a safe bet for applicants applying to a range of universities. The only exception is Channel Islands' nursing program.

At the same time students are applying to more universities, demographic shifts mean fewer high school graduates overall, creating more competition among universities for applicants.

Know the rules for IRA distributions

2 hours 10 min ago

Do you know anyone whose birthday falls between Jan. 1, 1944, and June 30, 1944? If so, wish that person a happy "70½" birthday. That is the magic birth date that starts the clock on Internal Revenue Service requirements to take money out of IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and other tax-deferred accounts.

These legally mandated withdrawals are taxable as income. After letting you grow your IRA tax-free your entire working career, the Treasury wants some tax revenue — not much, just the tax triggered by these minimum withdrawals. Roth IRAs have no such requirements (unless they are inherited — more on that in a future column).

Called "required minimum distributions," or RMDs, these mandated withdrawals will be a part of life each and every year forevermore.

You don't want to be in the position of forgetting to take your RMDs every year. People who do forget subject themselves to huge tax penalties of 50 percent. If your RMD is $50,000 and you don't withdraw your RMD on time, you owe the IRS $25,000.

To calculate your RMD, try the free online calculator provided by Fidelity, the mutual-fund people, at http://tinyurl.com/nld4jac.

Let's do an example together using the Fidelity calculator.

Say your birthday is Jan. 1, 1944, and if you add up all of your IRAs (leaving out Roth IRAs), you have $100,000 as of the end of last year (Dec. 31, 2013). Enter your birth month and year and $100,000 into the calculator at the appropriate places. Skip question 3 unless your spouse is 10 years younger than you are. For question 4, let's use 5 percent as your anticipated rate of return for the future.

Then press "Submit." You'll find your 2014 RMD (Fidelity calls it your MRD) at the top of the page: $3,649.64. That's the amount that you must withdraw from your IRA to satisfy your 2014 RMD.

Note that the Fidelity calculator emphasizes April 15, 2015, as the deadline by which you must take the withdrawal. That deadline is for first-timers. For all of your future RMDs, including 2015, the deadline is Dec. 31 of the RMD year.

Here is another important point: If you do decide to take your 2014 RMD after the close of 2014, the withdrawal will be taxed as 2015 income. Doing this will not excuse you from taking your 2015 RMD before the end of 2015. Thus, you'll be taking two RMDs in 2015 — your 2014 RMD before April 15, 2015 (based on your Dec. 31, 2013, IRA balance), and your 2015 RMD before Dec. 31, 2015 (based on your Dec. 31, 2014, IRA balance).

It's best not to put yourself in the position of taking two RMDs in one tax year unless your accountant has a good reason for suggesting it.

Going back to the calculator, your 2015 withdrawal is shown as $3,824.54. Your actual 2015 RMD will depend on your Dec. 31, 2014, balance. If you do some what-if calculations, you can see that if your return is a steady 5 percent per year (which it never is), your RMDs increase over time to age 93 before they start to decline. At 6 percent, RMDs increase until age 96 before they start to decline. At 4 percent, they start to decline at age 93; at 3 percent, age 89; and at zero percent, age 85.

Play around with the calculator to see how a July or later 1944 birth date affects RMDs. For example, a July 1944 birthday tells you that you have no RMDs due for 2014. Because the 1944 birthday falls after June 30, the RMDs begin in 2015, based on Dec. 31, 2014, balances. A July 1943 birthday shows a Dec. 31, 2015, deadline.

A more robust RMD program (for which there is a fee) is published by Brentmark (www.brentmark.com). Called Retirement Distributions Planner, it does all of these calculations and more, including how RMDs work for inherited IRAs.

And a final word of caution: Always review your RMDs with your tax adviser before taking action. There are nuances that you may not pick up on your own that can trigger penalties. Here is an easy one: You are using your Dec. 31 statements to do your calculations, but you forget to add back money that is in transit from an old IRA (with a zero Dec. 31 balance) to a new one (with a zero Dec. 31 balance). Doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professionals need to pay special attention, since their tax-deferred accounts tend to be their largest holdings. The larger your IRA, the larger your potential tax penalty if you don't get your RMD right.

Julie Jason, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and author, welcomes your questions/ comments (readers@juliejason.com).

FBI: North Korea's government behind Sony hack

2 hours 21 min ago

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Friday it believes North Korea's government is behind the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

On Nov. 24, a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" breached Sony's computer systems and leaked salaries and unreleased films. The FBI said it "has enough evidence to confirm" the North Korean government did it, according to reports.

Recent threats caused Sony to halt distribution of "The Interview," a comedic film about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, the country's totalitarian leader. Some are calling for the U.S. to take steps to declare North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the Associated Press. 

North Korea has declined it is involved in the cyber attack. It was on the list of state sponsors of terrorism for 20 years but removed in 2008 by the Bush administration. Countries currently with the designation include Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba, according to the AP.

5 of the most underreported stories of 2014

3 hours 31 sec ago

While important stories about the Ebola crisis, Islamic state group and nationwide protests dominated headlines this year, the news media neglected other important stories.

Prominent journalists met at the Woodrow Wilson Center last week to discuss the most underreported stories of 2014.

No one at the event would admit to missing an event outright – one journalist said that would be tantamount to admitting to malpractice – but they shared news they said should have gotten more widespread attention.

1. Loose nukes in Pakistan

Pakistan has at least six nuclear sites and could have as many as 200 nuclear devices by 2020. The Wilson Center’s Director Jane Harman said local reports described warheads being transported in vans, which could be a serious problem in a country with an active Taliban presence. (The discussion was held before Tuesday’s attack on a school in Islamabad where more than 100 students were murdered by Taliban forces.)

“There’s one I think at least we should devote a few brain cells to,” Harman said.

2. Civil war in Syria

While the Islamic state group has gotten the most attention in this country in recent months, Robin Wright, a former Washington Post reporter and a Wilson Center scholar, said the conflict between rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces has been largely neglected.

“There are two wars playing out in Syria,” she said. “We’re doing almost no examination or exploration of the war that has to do with the government in Damascus.”

Wright said Assad’s forces have dropped 2,500 barrel bombs in the last 50 days alone. She said they are crude bombs filled with shrapnel, chlorine and fertilizer-based explosives.

3. Losing Libya

The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi has become a partisan talking point and still makes headlines. But Wright said that there are other important developments that should get some attention, too.

After the death of Moammar Gadhafi, many in the international community hoped the new democracy would remain stable. But militants Islamists now control Benghazi and Tripoli.

“We are losing Libya,” Wright said. “The elected government has very few resources to regain power.”

4. U.S. economy

Greg Ip, a U.S. economics editor for The Economist, said that the most underreported story about the economy is how well it is doing.

“The pace of job growth is not just strong, its accelerating,” he said. “Within a year, we could have an economy that is fully back to normal, and yet opinion polls find that most people think we are still In a recession.”

But wages remain low, and households are still worse off than they were in 2007.

The problem the United States has is the inability to produce more goods and services, Ip said, because the country doesn't have enough labor and capital to do it. And the aging U.S. workforce will exacerbate labor problems in the coming years.

5. EPA regulations

The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller said the Keystone XL pipeline was the biggest environmental story of the year, but it wasn’t the most consequential.

“The much bigger story is the EPA regulations that aren’t nearly as sexy,” she said.

Those regulations, which were announced over the summer, would force states to come up with a formula for their existing coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon emissions by a set target.

“Over the long term that will have a far greater impact on the environment than if the Keystone pipeline is built,” she said.

Reach reporter Wesley Juhl at wesley.juhl@scripps.com or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Crews work to secure gas line in Santa Paula

3 hours 45 sec ago

Crews Friday morning are working to secure a gas line break at Santa Paula High School, officials said.

The incident was reported about 8:15 a.m. in the 400 block of North 6th Street, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

A construction vehicle severed a gas line at a construction site at the school.

The Gas Company responded to the scene and people at the school were asked to stay indoors during the incident.

County jobless rate edges up

3 hours 21 min ago

Ventura County's unemployment rate edged up to 6.5 percent last month from 6.3 percent in October, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The county's unemployment rate in November 2013 was 7.2 percent.

California's unemployment rate decreased to 7.2 percent last month, with 90,100 nonfarm payroll jobs added, for a total gain of 1,529,500 jobs since the recovery began in February 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate was unchanged in November at 5.8 percent.

The state's unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in October and 8.4 percent in November 2013. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.

Most Wanted for December 19

3 hours 30 min ago

Ventura County's Most Wanted is a collection from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office in conjunction with Crime Stoppers. 

Click here for more crime-related stories and VCSD Most Wanted.

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the suspect. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded.

Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit venturacountycrimestoppers.org. All information provided by Crime Stoppers as collected from law enforcement agencies or supplied by the Ventura County Sheriff's office.

Christmas celebrations planned

4 hours 47 min ago

CAMARILLO

Christmas Eve will celebrated in park

Calvary Nexus will host a citywide Christmas Eve candlelight service Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. at Constitution Park at Carmen Drive and Paseo Camarillo. The community is invited to an outdoor service that will include music and a message about the true meaning of Christmas.

In case of rain, check the website at http://www.calvarynexus.org for service times and location. For questions or directions, contact Calvary Nexus at 384-1182 or email to info@calvarynexus.org.

MALIBU

Episcopal Church plans two services

St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church will offer two Christmas Eve services Wednesday at 28211 Pacific Coast Highway (across from Paradise Cove).

At 5 p.m., come to the family-friendly service for carols and the youth pageant. At 10:30 p.m. join in the grand celebration of the Feast of the Holy Nativity, with lessons and carols, choral music and candlelight.

The community is welcome. For more information, visit http://www.staidanschurch.org.

NEWBURY PARK

Unitarians to hold service for families

A family Christmas Eve service will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 3327 Old Conejo Road.

It will include stories and songs of the season with music from the choir, additional musicians and congregational singing. For more information, call 492-8751.

SIMI VALLEY

Congregation hosts dinner and a movie

Congregation B’nai Emet of Simi Valley will have a movie and Chinese food buffet dinner Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at 9 W. Bonita Drive.

The movie will be “The Divan,” a humorous documentary in which filmmaker Pearl Gluck, who had forsaken her Orthodox upbringing, attempts to make amends with her father by acquiring a couch said to have been slept on by esteemed rabbis.

The cost is $18 per person and $10 for students 18 and younger. RSVP at 581-3723 or http://www.congregationbnaiemet.org.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE

Christmas program will feature choir

The 40-voice Chancel Choir of the United Methodist Church of Westlake Village will present “The Christmas Promise,” a Christmas program in three suites by Lloyd Larson, during the 9 and 10:30 a.m. worship services Sunday.

The three suites — “Let Every Heart Prepare,” ”Glory to the Newborn King” and “Let Earth Receive Her King” — tell the timeless story of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Familiar melodies and texts adorn this work.

Organist Ron McBain will accompany the narrated presentation on piano, with additional accompaniment by a brass quintet, flute, clarinet and percussion. Directed by Gloria Hilliard, director of music, the program will include a living Nativity tableau.

All are welcome to attend. The church is at 1049 S. Westlake Blvd. For more information, call the church office at 497-7884 or visit http//:www.umcwv.org.

8 children stabbed to death in Australia

5 hours 36 min ago

Authorities in Australia are investigating the stabbing deaths of eight children, all discovered in a home Friday afternoon.

The victims range in age from 18 months to 15 years, according to a news release from Queensland state police.

The home is in the Cairns suburb of Manoora, in the country’s north.

An unidentified woman, believed to be in her 30s, was also in the house and was suffering from “serious injuries,” the release said.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said forensic teams were inside the home collecting evidence. According to the Associated Press, he declined to specify how the children died.

“As it stands at the moment, there’s no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it’s a tragic, tragic event,” Asnicar said.

Officials had not yet identified any suspects, but were talking to a range of people, he told AP.

Acting Chief Superintendent Russell Miller said officials believe it was an isolated incident and there was no threat to the rest of the community, AP reported.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the news was heartbreaking.

“Tonight, there will be tears and prayers for these children across our country,” Abbott said in a statement from his office.

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©2014 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Topics: t000002458,t000027866,t000149877,t000027879

4 accused of providing alcohol to minors

11 hours 32 min ago

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said a sting operation Thursday resulted in the arrests of four people on suspicion of furnishing alcohol to a minor.

The agency and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control had minors try to buy alcohol from various businesses in unincorporated areas of west Ventura County, authorities said.

Three minors tried to buy alcohol from 13 locations, authorities said, and were turned away at nine of the businesses. At four locations, they were furnished with alcohol by someone who either failed to ask for identification or looked at the identification and furnished alcohol anyway, authorities said.

A Ventura 17-year-old, a Camarillo 48-year-old, an Oxnard 24-year-old and an Oxnard 66-year-old were arrested on suspicion of furnishing alcohol to a minor, authorities said.

Companies' data security in question

December 18, 2014 - 11:33pm

ATLANTA (AP) — Companies across the globe are on high alert to tighten up network security to avoid being the next company brought to its knees by hackers like those that executed the dramatic cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The hack, which a U.S. official has said investigators believe is linked to North Korea, culminated in the cancellation of a Sony film and ultimately could cost the movie studio hundreds of millions of dollars. That the hack included terrorist threats and was focused on causing major corporate damage, rather than on stealing customer information for fraud like in the breaches at Home Depot and Target, indicates a whole new frontier has emerged in cybersecurity. Suddenly every major company could be the target of cyberextortion.

"The Sony breach is a real wake-up call even after the year of mega-breaches we've seen," says Lee Weiner, Boston security firm Rapid7's senior vice president of products and engineering. "This is a completely different type of data stolen with the aim to harm the company."

This should signal to all U.S. businesses that they need to "take cybersecurity as serious as physical security of their employees or security of their physical facilities," says Cynthia Larose, chair of the privacy and security practice at the law firm Mintz Levin in Boston.

The breach is particularly troubling in Hollywood, where secrecy is supposed to be paramount to insure that movie secrets worth millions don't get leaked.

"Movie studios have, by and large, behaved as high-security intellectual property purveyors; prints have been tightly controlled, screeners are watermarked, and bootleggers are prosecuted wherever possible," says Seth Shapiro, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. He said that's what makes it so surprising that email leaks showed that Sony executives apparently gave out passwords in unencrypted emails and made other security blunders.

"The apparently laxity of Sony IT security — given the history of prior hacks — is unprecedented in the history of media technology," he says. Sony Corp.'s PlayStation network was hacked in 2011.

Studios are trying to tighten up procedures in the wake of the Sony attack. Warner Bros. executives earlier this week ordered a company-wide password reset and sent a five-point security checklist to employees advising them to purge their computers of any unnecessary data, in an email seen by The Associated Press. "Keep only what you need for business purposes," the message said.

Even so, some say there is little that corporations can do to prevent such a sophisticated cyberattack. The key may lie more in detection and limiting damage.

"There are very few companies that can withstand that kind of large assault," says Rich Mogull, an analyst with security firm Securosis in Phoenix. "But a lot of companies do need to improve what they're doing on security, I see it every day with companies I work with."

Companies also need to invest in identifying vulnerabilities on their networks and work quickly to address them. Jonathan Sander, strategy and research officer at data security firm Stealthbits in Hawthorne, N.J., recommends undertaking a comprehensive review to ensure outdated files, such as digital copies of old contracts and electronic conversations that occurred years ago, are no longer being stored on the corporate networks.

"There is a lot of stuff just sitting there waiting to be taken and used for the kind of thing that has happened at Sony right now," Sander says.

He says the Sony breach has been coming up in every customer meeting that Stealthbits Technologies had held since the stolen information began leaking out and making international headlines earlier this month.

"We used to have to lead people to the idea that you need to protect this kind of data," he said. "Now we walk in and they're asking, 'How can I keep my data from ending up on the Internet like Sony's did?"

Some customers have been wondering if they should reduce their reliance on email and switch over to other digital forms of communication, such as messaging systems that don't store the data. Sander doesn't believe that provides as much protection as making a telephone call to share passwords and other sensitive information.

Most importantly, companies need to focus on the ability to detect hacks quickly and limit them as fast as possible. Currently, the average amount of time it takes a company to detect a breach is 200 to 230 days, Rapid7's Weiner said. "That allows the attacker time to gain a lot of knowledge and do a lot of damage," he said.

While none of Weiner's clients have made large-scale changes to their security in reaction to the Sony attack specifically, cybersecurity is becoming a bigger focus in general. "There has been increased investment in information security and increased awareness of the risk and threats of these kind of attacks," he says. "We're starting to see information security as a boardroom issue, it's getting much more attention."

One example companies could follow is in the technology sector, where most firms have been tightening their security measures during the past 18 months in response to revelations about the digital spying tactics of the U.S. government.

Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. government had been tapping into the computer networks of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other technology companies in search of emails and other electronic communications that might uncover terrorist plots and other illegal activity. The U.S. government has maintained that it has never collected the kind of highly personal details stolen in the Sony Pictures breach. But tech companies being targeted by the NSA have since tried to thwart the surveillance by encrypting their internal email systems as well as the free accounts available to the general public. Both Google and Apple, the makers of the world's leading software for mobile devices, also are automatically encrypting the data stored on smartphones so the information is indecipherable to unauthorized users, including government authorities.

General Motors says it has bolstered cybersecurity in the past two years by bringing information technology in-house from outside vendors. The auto giant has a cybersecurity chief on staff to prevent hackers from getting into GM vehicle computers and has consolidated electronic data storage from 23 centers worldwide into two located near Detroit.

"I would say we have a higher level (of security) than some other companies do," says spokeswoman Jennie Ecclestone.

A key to thwarting attacks is knowing your enemy and figuring out exactly who might want to hurt your company, adds Tom Chapman, head of cyber-operations at EdgeWave Security in San Diego.

"In the past people were looking for a firewall or an individual product," for protection, says Chapman, a retired Navy intelligence officer who specialized in hunting down hackers. "Now, they're realizing there is a human element. They need to understand who might be after them. By better understanding your likely adversaries, you can better craft your defense."

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AP Writers Mike Liedtke in San Francisco, Bernard Condon, Anne D'Innocenzio and Joe Pisani in New York, Tom Krisher in Detroit, and Ted Bridis in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

 

 

Camarillo approves funds in response to storms

December 18, 2014 - 9:17pm

During a special meeting Thursday, the Camarillo City Council unanimously approved up to $660,000 in construction improvements in response to the latest mud and debris flow in the Camarillo Springs area.

This is in addition to the original $360,000 the council approved Dec. 10 to come out of the city’s general fund for a project recommended by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a government agency that includes civil engineers.

Work will begin Friday to grade the slope above Camarillo Springs from where the mud and debris are flowing. The goal is to prevent debris from reaching the drainage system in the future. About 17,000 tons of debris is expected to be trucked away by the deadline for the work to be completed next week.

The council also agreed to extend an emergency proclamation in the city for 30 days, and is asking California Gov. Jerry Brown proclaim Camarillo in a state of emergency and request a declaration of emergency from President Barack Obama.

With the hillside stripped by the 2013 Springs Fire of vegetation that would normally hold material in place, a major rainstorm during the night on Dec. 11 and in the morning of Dec. 12 caused a significant debris flow in Camarillo Springs and damaged at least 16 homes.

Ten of those homes have been red-tagged as uninhabitable.

“The work on the NRCS project was supposed to commence on Dec. 15, but it never did and the NRCS has prepared a new project,” City Attorney Brian Pierik said.

In a staff report to the council, City Manager Bruce Feng said the new project will increase safety in the Camarillo Springs area and reduce the potential for injuries to residents, and work now will reduce the amount of public funds otherwise required for future emergency services.

Feng also said there are Camarillo Sanitary District facilities in Camarillo Springs that could be impacted and sewage services disrupted.

“Due to the limited time available based upon emergency circumstances, there is not enough time for city to bid for a contractor,” Feng said in the report.

City officials are pursuing reimbursement from the NRCS for 75 percent of the cost for the new project. They also are working with the Springs Homeowners Association and adjacent property owners with respect to the 25 percent funding balance and maintenance of the improvements.

During discussion Thursday, Public Works Director Tom Fox said the 2013 Springs Fire burned vegetation and a large amount of mud was washed away during the Oct. 31 storm. The mud was holding the rock in place.

“Enough mud was washed out that by the last storm, it was rock that came down and in a much greater volume than the mud,” Fox said.

Fox said since last week’s storm, the city has spent more than $300,000 on removal of debris, restoration of access on the streets, debris removal, drain restoration, and rebuilding the hillside.

The goal now is to trap any future debris and keep it from flowing in new directions toward other homes.

“We are not going to be able to protect against all storms. There are just some storms that no matter what we try, we may not be able to stop all debris, but our goal is to create a condition in which we can stop as much as possible and go as far as we can with the resources available,” Fox said.

“When you look at some of the damage on those homes, it’s a fantastic accomplishment that no one’s been injured. When you see a lot of incidences around the state that look similar but the outcome is much worse.”

DUI checkpoints planned in Simi Valley, Oxnard

December 18, 2014 - 8:20pm

Police planned extra efforts this weekend looking for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Oxnard and Simi Valley, authorities said.

Police in Oxnard will set up multiple checkpoints looking for people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs from 8 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday. Officers also will check drivers for valid licenses, authorities said.

Anti-DUI patrols will be deployed in Simi Valley from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. starting Saturday and Sunday nights in areas where DUI arrests and DUI-related traffic collisions are frequent, authorities said.

Funding for both efforts is provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

Thousand Oaks sees flare-up of violence

December 18, 2014 - 7:44pm

Police were investigating a flare-up of disturbances Thursday evening in Thousand Oaks, at least one of which had possible gang ties and sent two people to a local hospital with knife wounds. 

There was no indication that all the incidents were related, but it’s unusual in Thousand Oaks — known for its very low crime rate — for so many incidents to occur in such a short period.

First, police investigated a report of a disturbance about 6 p.m. near Hodencamp and Wilbur roads. Reports indicated there was a person armed with a handgun as well as a bow and arrow. Not long after they arrived, officers at the scene said a suspect had been hit four times by a nonlethal weapon used by police but that the suspect still had a handgun. Soon afterward at 6:18 p.m., police said they used a stun device on the man and he was taken into custody. Some roads in the area were blocked as the events unfolded.

While the Hodencamp incident was coming to a close, police received a report of another disturbance in the 800 block of Warwick Avenue. When police arrived, they found no victims or suspects, but only witnesses. Officers found a broken window and other physical evidence of a struggle. Police said the area has a history of gang-related activity. 

Soon after the Warwick disturbance was reported, rescuers and police responded to a stabbing report in the 600 block of Avenida De La Plata. Crews found two victims, one of whom had been stabbed and one whose face had been slashed, and took them to a local hospital about 7:17 p.m. 

There was a strong police presence Thursday night in the neighborhood a few blocks southeast of the Amgen campus as officers looked for evidence and talked to people on both sides of the street. Residents came outside to their porches and yards to watch the investigation, which at 9 p.m. along with the Warwick incident involved about 12 units from the Thousand Oaks Police Department. 

Officers told dispatchers there were reports of a gold vehicle at the scene with the occupants yelling “Chiques.” Various gang groups in the Oxnard area go by that name, including in that city’s La Colonia neighborhood, which was rocked Tuesday night by a fatal shooting that police said was gang-related. The dead man, David Lara, 28, had a Ventura County criminal record dating to 2005 and was Oxnard’s third victim of a fatal shooting in three days. 

In Thousand Oaks, police didn’t believe the incident at Hodencamp and Wilbur roads was related to the others. They initially thought the Warwick and Avenida De La Plata incidents were related, but later said they could not be sure. 

There were a some other incidents Thursday in Thousand Oaks around the same time or area of the others, although their relationship with the other matters, if any, was unclear. Among those incidents:

— At 7:30 p.m., there was a report of an injured person at Avenida De Los Arboles and Moorpark Road, not far north of the Warwick and Hodencamp disturbances. A patient was taken to a local hospital, officials said.

— Around the same time as the Avenida De La Plata and incidents, police were investigating a report of a domestic disturbance outdoors on Los Feliz Drive. 

— At 9:07 p.m., rescuers were sent to the 800 block of Warwick Avenue on a medical call. Fire dispatchers said the report was made by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. 

 

3 arrested in connection with Ventura burglaries

December 18, 2014 - 5:54pm

Three Port Hueneme residents were arrested in connection with residential burglaries Thursday in Ventura, police said.

A Ventura resident called the city’s police department at 12:03 p.m. to report that a suspicious person knocked on the front door of her home in the 7300 block of Pierce Street and asked for someone who did not live there. The resident saw the suspicious person, later identified as 23-year-old Rodney Bennett of Port Hueneme, walk from the door and into an awaiting vehicle occupied by a female driver and male passenger, authorities said.

Officers responding to the call saw a vehicle matching the resident’s description of the one waiting nearby and conducted a traffic stop on it at Loma Vists Road and Jefferson Avenue. Stolen property taken from two Ventura residential burglaries was located in the car, officials said.

Some of the property was reported stolen at 11:37 a.m. from a resident who lives in the 300 block of Westminster Street. The other property was reported stolen at 12:18 p.m. by a person who noticed the front door of their neighbor’s home in the 5400 block of LaFayette Street had been forced open, police said.

Sara Ayala, 21, was driving the car and Austin Ervin, 22, was the passenger. Both were identified as Port Hueneme residents. Bennett, Ayala and Ervin were booked into county jail after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and resident burglary, officials said.

Oxnard couple stop suspected package thief

December 18, 2014 - 5:39pm

Call them the “package police.”

An Oxnard couple this week chased after and caught a man who allegedly stole a package from a front lawn in the RiverPark community before police arrived.

Although the suspect was armed with a knife, Felix Eisenhauer, 30, walked away unscathed except for some bruising where the man, Leocez Dimaculangan, bit him, the couple said.

“I didn’t get a vibe from him that he was going to hurt us,” Tara Eisenhauer said. “In my mind, if I let him go, he’ll continue to commit other crimes, and this needs to stop now.”

Tara Eisenhauer was making lunch about noon Tuesday when she saw an unfamiliar man checking out the front lawns of her neighbors’ homes. She thought she’d keep her eye on him and saw him with a box, she said.

“I know all my neighbors well and I knew that wasn’t his package,” she said.

She went outside and started following the man, asking him questions about the package before he took off running, she said. She and her husband gave chase, and her husband soon caught up to the man, she said.

The couple and another man in the area held the suspect down until police arrived.

“There was just something within me that said, ‘We can get this guy,’ ” Tara said. “I was just on a mission at that point.”

Officers were flagged down by other RiverPark residents and arrested Dimaculangan, 23, of Oxnard, on suspicion of felony battery with bodily injury and mail theft, police said.

The Eisenhauers, part of the community’s Neighborhood Watch, returned the package to its owner, Khrista Green. The package had a toy for her baby boy.

Oxnard police Officer Brandon Ordelheide, who patrols the RiverPark area, said his department is focusing on getting communities to help fight crime. The RiverPark community has created a Facebook page in which it communicates with beat officers and lets them know of trends, like the recent theft of mail packages, Ordelheide said.

“It’s a very unique neighborhood,” the officer said. “Residents know most of the officers (who work in the area) by first name. It’s kind of a small city up there with police and residents.”

Ordelheide said he liked that the Eisenhauers were able to stop a suspected thief, but he added that they could have been injured.

“We want to continue to build relationships with residents, and people should be good witnesses if a crime occurs in front of them but try not to get involved,” the officer said. “We hate for people to get hurt.”

Meanwhile, the Eisenhauers have taken to calling themselves the “package police.” About a week before the incident, the couple took in a package that had been left on a neighbor’s front lawn until late at night.

“I’m thinking of printing small cards letting people know we’ve taken in their packages,” Felix Eisenhauer said. “Maybe we’ll put ‘The Package Police’ if we can come up with a nice logo.”

Longtime Simi Valley Chamber head to retire

December 18, 2014 - 5:20pm

Leigh Nixon, a pillar of Simi Valley who has headed the chamber of commerce for 16 years and has served on numerous community boards and foundations, is retiring and moving to suburban Las Vegas.

Nixon, president and CEO of the chamber, said Thursday she is retiring effective May 31.

She said she is timing her retirement with that of her husband, Richard, 60, who is retiring in April after 26 years with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Nixon, 62, said she is retiring with mixed emotions: looking forward to the master planned community of Sumerlin, Nevada, but knowing she will miss Simi Valley.

“Oh my God,” she said. “I mean 16 years just here in the same office the whole time. I’ve made so many friendships and love so many people here. That’s going to be the hard part.”

During her long chamber tenure, she said she is perhaps most proud of the group becoming one of only seven five-star accredited chambers in the state.

Simi Valley Mayor Bob Huber, a personal friend of Nixon’s and a twice past president of the chamber, praised her leadership of the group and her involvement in the community.

“Simi Valley has been very blessed to have Leigh Nixon as the CEO/president of the chamber all these years,” Huber said. “She has been the consummate professional leading the chamber with innovative ideas throughout her tenure. Business individuals in the city have benefited tremendously from her leadership. She will be sorely missed.”

The chamber’s board will conduct a search for Nixon’s successor. The chamber’s operations director, Michele Bennett, is expected to apply, Nixon said.

Among her many community involvements, Nixon is board chair of the Simi Valley Community Foundation and sits on the boards of Simi Valley Hospital and the Simi Valley Samaritan Homeless Center.

Nixon said she and her husband picked the Las Vegas area because their four grown children in different parts of the country said they would be more apt to visit them there.

Oak View students wins fire safety award

December 18, 2014 - 5:19pm

When Sunset School Principal Kelsie Sims sends her fourth-graders to the Ventura Fire Department’s annual Fire Safety Days in October, she implores them to “do a good job” on the essay “because I want the trophy.”

Sims’ inspirational speech apparently worked this year because a crew from the department came to the Ventura Unified School District campus in Oak View to award the trophy for the best fire safety essay to fourth-grader Ireland Sinklier.

Ventura Fire Chief David Endaya said it was a herculean task to determine finalists for the rotating award from among more than 1,400 essays.

Endaya said his department offers Fire Safety Days so students can understand what firefighters do “besides knock down doors” and to teach fire safety skills the kids can take home. This year’s event was Oct. 8-9 off Seaward Avenue.

Endaya said Ireland’s essay was selected because it not only was well-written, with perfect spelling and grammar, but also explained the scientific and mathematical skills firefighters employ.

Ireland, of Oak View, was asked to read her essay in front of the assembled firefighters and school administrators, as well as her classmates, mother, father, brother, grandmother and two uncles, who all came to see her win the award.

Ireland smiled afterward and said she was happy and proud to have won the award.

Her mom, Elizabeth Sinklier, who was cheering on her daughter, said the girl is shy but also gifted.

“She’s a great student. She wants to write scripts. She’s very talented with her writing,” Sinklier said, acknowledging that her daughter is not comfortable in front of crowds.

“I was so proud that she read the whole thing,” she said.

Ireland’s dad, Bryan Sinklier, said it was a challenge for his wife and him to keep the award a secret until Wednesday’s ceremony.

“That was the hardest part,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Jonny Sinklier, 12, who is also a student at Sunset, said his sister’s award took him by surprise.

“We just thought it was a regular awards ceremony. No one knew. I’m very proud of her,” he said, adding that he has good memories of his time at the Fire Safety Days demonstrations.

Sims said Ireland was a great choice for the award, which the school will proudly display for a year.

“She’s a very kind, quiet and graceful child,” Sims said. “And I know she’s thrilled.”