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FBI Blames North Korea for Sony Hack

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 19, 2014 - 2:30pm
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday evidence points to North Korea as the culprit behind a hack of Sony Pictures that led the studio to pull the movie “The Interview” out of theaters.

Bellringer donation honors late son-in-law

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 2:30pm

Although Jack and Alice Sherman couldn't make it to the annual fishing trip at Silver Lake in the Sierra this October, Alice knew it was a memorable one.

It was the last trip her son-in-law, David Rogers, took with all of his children and grandchildren before he passed away three weeks later.

"It's so beautiful up there," Alice Sherman, of Camarillo, said of the spot in the Eastern Sierra. "(David) would sit in his chair at the edge of the lake and fish and he just loved it."

Rogers had melanoma, and his family knew he didn't have much longer to live.

"They were afraid he wasn't going to make it, but he did, and he had a good time," Alice said. Rogers' eight children and 12 grandchildren also all made it to the lake this year.

The Star's annual Julius Gius Bellringer drive will run through Christmas, with a list of new contributions published daily, except Mondays.

Although The Star acknowledges all contributions, donors can remain anonymous if requested. The Salvation Army will receive all the money raised, to serve local people in need.

Checks should include the donor's name, phone number and, if desired, the name of the person, organization, pet or other cause in whose memory it is given.

New donations:

God bless the poor. Anonymous: $100.

In loving memory of Marie Ford Turner, Ora Lee Boyd Cox, Louise Gholson Downard, Merilyn Bybee Harney and Arlou Wells Mashburn. From Marie Turner's Nordhoff Girls Luncheon Group: $25.

In memory of my husband, John Ibison. Judy Ibison: $100.

In memory of David Rogers. His children and grandchildren took him to Silver Lake in the Sierra for his last fishing trip. They had a great time and he died three weeks later. Jack and Alice Sherman: $25.

In loving memory of our daughter, Shelly Ann Hendricks. Don and Carol Miller: $100.

In loving memory of my parents, Mary and Bruce Johnston, and my brothers, Jeff and Fred. Carol Miller: $100.

In memory of my friends Emily Alstot, Matt Beck and Chris Torrey. From Casey: $30.

In memory of Dr. John Luttrall and David Fetter, two of the best Kiwanis-Salvation Army Bellringers ever. We miss them. Dave and Jan Schmutte: $100.

In memory of my parents, Ed and Marcia McShane. Molly Colton: $100.

In loving memory of our family members who left too soon but will always be in our hearts. Huera, Tuna, Pelepe, Josie, Dolores and Vero. D.P.: $30.

In memory of friends Pat Listen, wife of Abex friend Mel; Lynne Smith, Dust Rider Camping Club; Phyllis Salka, Dust Rider Camping Club; and Frank Parrone, Abex co-worker. We miss these friends who have left us this year. Ruth and Phil Smith: $50.

In loving memory of my husband, Martin Jerome Gooch, and my son, Byron Elliott Wade. Always to be remembered especially at this time of year. Patricia Wade Gooch: $500.

In loving memory of Doris Rowe and Carolyn Weir, retired Probation Agency officers. We think and/or speak of you when we gather each month. You are in our hearts and are missed. With fondness, Ruth, Judy, Anne, Kenna, Brenda and Beth: $150.

Merry Christmas. William S. Parsons: $50.

Elizabeth Wolfe: $50.

Today's total: $1,510.

Previous total: $33,178.33.

Total to date: $34,688.33.

Please make checks out to Bellringer and send them to:

Bellringer

Ventura County Star

P.O. Box 6006

Camarillo, CA 93011

Missing money cited in cemetry audit

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 2:15pm

A firm that audited the finances of a Simi Valley cemetery district has declined to give an opinion for three of the five years inspected, citing missing records and revenues.

“We just felt there were too many areas where there were problems,” said Craig Collins, a certified public accountant and partner in the Collins Accountancy Co. “When it gets to that point, we were precluded from expressing any opinion.”

The draft report covering the 2005-2006 to 2009-10 fiscal years says at least $28,833 collected by the El Rancho Simi Cemetery District was “unaccounted.” The figure reflects revenues and fees that appear to have been paid to the special district, but for which corresponding bank deposits could not be found, Collins said.

It is not the first time that concerns over untraced funds have been raised. During the preliminary audit, Collins discovered and reported to the board that about $12,000 was missing, a document shows.

That figure is included in the $28,833, Collins said.

In 2011, former cemetery board Chairman Tyler Ritch asked District Attorney Greg Totten to investigate the $12,000 loss to see if any illegal action had occurred. Totten said he needed additional information. Totten suggested the board hire a forensic accountant, but that was never done for reasons related to the board’s finances, timing and the incomplete audit.

Former manager Barbara Scroggins has said the $12,000 went missing at a time when another person was responsible for making bank deposits. Afterward, the district stopped accepting payments in cash and instituted other checks and balances, officials said.

No criminal charges were filed.

The draft audit report was issued early this month and is expected to be finalized in January. It was supposed to be finished in 2011.

Collins declined to explain the delay. Trustees, though, have indicated it stemmed from a failure to obtain enough records and answers to conclude the audit until recently.

As part of his investigation, Collins compared a groundskeeper’s bills showing the number of graves dug over a two-year period with the revenues recorded for burial fees. The discrepancy amounted to about $20,000, the auditor said in a separate report to the board.

Other findings from the draft audit report:

n Fees that must go into an endowment fund were kept in the district’s bank account instead of being promptly invested in the fund. Earnings from the state-required fund pay for the future needs of the cemetery. Collins did not calculate the amount of any lost earnings but the district paid about $22,000 in May 2011 to settle the liability. Deposits are now made monthly, officials said.

n Formal budgets were not prepared for four of the five fiscal years examined by the audit.

n A loan from the city of Simi Valley to the district is in default. The district owes about $180,000 on the loan taken out to improve the cemetery, Trustee Debbie Burdorf said.

The city has not called in the debt and the district had been using its share of redevelopment funds to chip away at the balance. But it is no longer getting that cash because the state has dismantled the redevelopment program set up to revitalize blighted areas, trustees said.

In a response to Collins, the board said it would look for additional resources to make payments on the debt. The board is exploring the possibility of allowing Verizon to install a cellphone tower on the property to generate revenue.

Other problems cited in the audit have been corrected or are in process, trustees said.

The trustees, none of whom were on the board during the period covered by the audit, have tackled a variety of management and financial matters.

They hired a new manager and plan to improve record-keeping and other business functions.

The final audit must be submitted to the county auditor-controller and the state controller for review.

Preliminary work on the next audit is expected to start in the spring. Burdorf said the results will be much improved because of reforms that have been made.

The firm plans to give a qualified opinion for the last two years of the audit, which indicates some reservations. The highest rating is an unqualified opinion and the lowest an adverse one.

Missing money cited in cemetry audit

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 2:15pm

A firm that audited the finances of a Simi Valley cemetery district has declined to give an opinion for three of the five years inspected, citing missing records and revenues.

"We just felt there were too many areas where there were problems," said Craig Collins, a certified public accountant and partner in the Collins Accountancy Co. "When it gets to that point, we were precluded from expressing any opinion."

The draft report covering the 2005-2006 to 2009-10 fiscal years says at least $28,833 collected by the El Rancho Simi Cemetery District was "unaccounted." The figure reflects revenues and fees that appear to have been paid to the special district, but for which corresponding bank deposits could not be found, Collins said.

It is not the first time that concerns over untraced funds have been raised. During the preliminary audit, Collins discovered and reported to the board that about $12,000 was missing, a document shows.

That figure is included in the $28,833, Collins said.

In 2011, former cemetery board Chairman Tyler Ritch asked District Attorney Greg Totten to investigate the $12,000 loss to see if any illegal action had occurred. Totten said he needed additional information. Totten suggested the board hire a forensic accountant, but that was never done for reasons related to the board's finances, timing and the incomplete audit.

Former manager Barbara Scroggins has said the $12,000 went missing at a time when another person was responsible for making bank deposits. Afterward, the district stopped accepting payments in cash and instituted other checks and balances, officials said.

No criminal charges were filed.

The draft audit report was issued early this month and is expected to be finalized in January. It was supposed to be finished in 2011.

Collins declined to explain the delay. Trustees, though, have indicated it stemmed from a failure to obtain enough records and answers to conclude the audit until recently.

As part of his investigation, Collins compared a groundskeeper's bills showing the number of graves dug over a two-year period with the revenues recorded for burial fees. The discrepancy amounted to about $20,000, the auditor said in a separate report to the board.

Other findings from the draft audit report:

n Fees that must go into an endowment fund were kept in the district's bank account instead of being promptly invested in the fund. Earnings from the state-required fund pay for the future needs of the cemetery. Collins did not calculate the amount of any lost earnings but the district paid about $22,000 in May 2011 to settle the liability. Deposits are now made monthly, officials said.

n Formal budgets were not prepared for four of the five fiscal years examined by the audit.

n A loan from the city of Simi Valley to the district is in default. The district owes about $180,000 on the loan taken out to improve the cemetery, Trustee Debbie Burdorf said.

The city has not called in the debt and the district had been using its share of redevelopment funds to chip away at the balance. But it is no longer getting that cash because the state has dismantled the redevelopment program set up to revitalize blighted areas, trustees said.

In a response to Collins, the board said it would look for additional resources to make payments on the debt. The board is exploring the possibility of allowing Verizon to install a cellphone tower on the property to generate revenue.

Other problems cited in the audit have been corrected or are in process, trustees said.

The trustees, none of whom were on the board during the period covered by the audit, have tackled a variety of management and financial matters.

They hired a new manager and plan to improve record-keeping and other business functions.

The final audit must be submitted to the county auditor-controller and the state controller for review.

Preliminary work on the next audit is expected to start in the spring. Burdorf said the results will be much improved because of reforms that have been made.

The firm plans to give a qualified opinion for the last two years of the audit, which indicates some reservations. The highest rating is an unqualified opinion and the lowest an adverse one.

Sony made mistake pulling film, Obama says

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 12:19pm

Sony Pictures made a mistake in keeping "The Interview" out of theaters following terror threats, President Barack Obama said in a year-end news conference at the White House Friday.

Obama said "the hackers are going to get better too" as America gets better at putting measures into place to prevent acts of terror, and that 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 responsible for a Nov. 24 breach of Sony's computer systems, which led to leaked salaries and unreleased films. The FBI said it "has enough evidence to confirm" it.

"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.

North Korea has denied it was involved in the cyber attack. 

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

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.

Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward dies in Calif.

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 11:59am

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) — Lowell Steward, a former member of the Tuskegee Airmen who flew nearly 200 missions over Europe during World War II, has died in California. He was 95.

His son Lowell Jr. says Steward died Wednesday at a hospital in Ventura of natural causes.

After graduating college in 1941, Steward joined the Army Air Corps and trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

He was shipped to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the famed all-black unit. Steward completed escort and strafing missions and was ultimately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After being discharged in 1946 he went on to a long career in real estate.

Steward's wife of 60 years, Helen, died in 2004. He is survived by three children, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Caught on camera: Must-watch videos of 2014

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 11:56am

In many ways, 2014 was a year like any other. Some people were nice and some were naughty — but not everyone got caught on camera.

The videos and stories below are from communities across the country and involve a variety of situations, from cats protecting humans to cops behaving badly.

They all have one thing in common: They’ll make you do a double-take.

 

VIDEO: Cat saves Bakersfield boy

A cat came to her best friend's rescue when Jeremy, 4, was attacked by a dog in his driveway in Bakersfield, California and it was all caught on video.

Jeremy, who has mild autism, was playing on his bike after school.

The neighbor's dog, an 8-month-old labrador/chow mix, sneaks up behind him and bites his leg.

The family's cat, Tara, rushed the attacking dog and chased it away.

 

 

Angry driver attacks Ferguson protester blockading I-5 highway

As dozens of students blocked a highway in San Diego as part of a Ferguson protest, thousands of irate commuters were left stranded and unable to get to work.

At least one of those drivers was angry enough to push a protester and steal his bullhorn.

 

Caught on camera: Pregnant beggar with boy drives off in a Mercedes-Benz

An outraged viewer contacted San Diego TV station ABC 10 after she watched a pregnant woman and a boy beg for money in a shopping center and then drive away in a Mercedes Benz
 

 

RAW VIDEO: Police Chase Carjackers at Lookout Mountain

Two suspects in an armed carjacking on Lookout Mountain near Denver, Colorado were captured after a short-lived, but brazen crime spree.

Denver TV station ABC 7 caught video of the chase and eventual capture from their helicopter.
 

 

Pug picks fight with police dog outside Phoenix barricade

As police worked to negotiate with an armed robbery suspect barricaded in his Phoenix home, a little dog wandering the street tried to pick a fight.

Police were in front of the home for more than four hours. 
 

 

Denver deputy suspended for 90 days after taekwondo

A Denver sheriff’s deputy who is also a taekwondo instructor was telling other deputies how he practices martial arts to "stay in shape," and demonstrated a kick to his colleague.

An inmate then interjected with "that isn't a kick" and "you ain't s---."

What the deputy did next resulted in a 90-day suspension. 
 

 

Cut on Camera: Cop cuts off woman's weave

At many jails, prisoners are required to remove hair extensions that clip in because they could be used as a weapon or to commit suicide.

But Charda Gregory didn't have clip in extensions. She had a weave that was sewn right into her real hair. A Detroit-area cop was fired after she decided to take matters into her own hands, and attempt to cut the weave off the woman’s head
 

 

Helmet Cam: Baltimore bike rider attacked

A Baltimore-area man was riding his bike and not going very fast, when suddenly several young people knocked him off his bike and started beating him.

The attack was captured by a small camera mounted on his bike helmet. He'd been recording his rides for about a year — ever since a friend's bike was cut off by a truck.

CLICK HERE to see the full playlist of 2014's must-watch videos. 

5 foodie things to do this weekend (Dec. 19-21)

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 11:43am

From looking at gingerbread houses in Oxnard to slurping ramen noodles in Ventura and tasting Full of Life Flatbread pizzas in Ojai, there's plenty to do, see and eat in Ventura County this weekend.

1). You can look but you can't eat while admiring entries in the sixth annual gingerbread house contest presented by Heritage Square in downtown Oxnard. Find out who took the prizes in such categories as "favorite landmark," "most festive" and docents' and people's choice awards during the display's final viewing hours for the season: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. (Heritage Square Hall, 715 South A St., 483-7960, heritagesquareoxnard.com).

2).  Nearly 20 food trucks and dessert vendors are expected to roll into Ventura for a holiday version of Midtown Food Truck Friday. The event from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Trader Joe's parking lot near the Pacific View mall will include activities for kids, live music by the Hueneme High School marching band, and your pick of dishes from such trucks as Belly Bombz, Cousins Maine Lobster, Grilled Cheese Truck, Scratch and Desserts to Die For (Mills Road at Telegraph Road, Venturasfoodtruckfridays).

3). What's a ramen rally? "We serve ramen all day," explains Yukari Watanabe, owner of Gotetsu Japanese Restaurant located across the street from Ventura High School. The small but mighty eatery already known for its yakitori (skewers) and bento boxes will serve tonkotsu soup and other ramens from 5:30 p.m. to closing Friday and again from 11:30 a.m. Saturday (2098 E. Main St., 643-3199, gotetsu805.wix.com).

4). Want to taste farm-to-table combos from the wood-fired ovens of Full of Life Flatbreads in Los Alamos -- without crossing the Ventura-Santa Barbara County line? Then get thee to the Deck the Halls event from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Ojai Rancho Inn. Each of the rooms at the refurbished motor lodge will be transformed into showcases for handmade gift items (including Ojai's own A Salty Infusion line of herbal sea salts.) Full of Life will be there to fortify shoppers with winter-themed fare; beverages will be available at Chief's Peak, the inn's on-site wine and beer bar (615 W. Ojai Ave., 646-1434, ojairanchoinn.com).

5). Sizzling hot latkes (potato pancakes) will be on the menu during the free 12th annual Chanukah Festival & Concert from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Ventura Harbor Village. Co-presented by Chabad of Oxnard, Chabad of Camarillo and Chabad of Ventura, the event will include a grand menorah lighting, a DJ spinning Israeli and hip-hop tunes, and live music by the band Automatic Toys (1583 Spinnaker Drive, 382-4470, chabadofoxnard.com).

CALL AHEAD to avoid disappoint over last-minute changes and cancelations of events.

This list was compiled by Lisa McKinnon of the Ventura County Star. To submit information for consideration, send email to lmckinnon@vcstar.com

 

Rotary clubs, police give to Simi Valley kids

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 10:26am

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.

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