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24 Hour Fitness to open in Oxnard

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:05pm

The new 24 Hour Fitness in Oxnard will have a grand opening Saturday.

The public is invited to take part in a full day of events beginning at 9 a.m. at 400 Town Center Drive. The new gym in The Collection at RiverPark is the city’s second 24 Hour Fitness location.

The day’s events will include a photo booth, club tours, a fitness-themed video presentation and a mobile zip line as well as an opportunity for a workout in the new club.

A color guard from Naval Base Ventura County will open the ribbon-cutting with the presentation of colors.

The new 42,872 square-foot gym features a variety of fitness equipment and amenities, including a basketball court, an indoor lap pool, a sauna, a steam room and a whirlpool.

Call 800-224-0240 or visit http://24hourfitness.com for more information.

Moorpark opposes oil refinery's rail project

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 4:05pm

The Moorpark City Council agreed Wednesday to send a letter opposing a refinery rail spur extension project in Santa Maria, which could potentially expose the city to fire or explosion risk from oil tanker cars.

The council voted 3-2, with Councilmen Keith Millhouse and Mark Van Dam dissenting, to send the letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission opposing the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery Rail Spur Extension project. The concern centers on the risk of a possible derailment accident that would release crude oil in a populated area along the Union Pacific mainline tracks, including Moorpark.

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission will be hearing the issue in February.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report was recently recirculated on the project, which would extend an existing rail spur of the rail mainline by an additional 6,915 feet to serve the refinery, which is 3.5 miles west of Nipomo in San Luis Obispo County.

Moorpark city staff recommended a letter in opposition be sent because it could affect city residents and businesses adjacent to the tracks. Moorpark has five public and three street railroad crossings in the city.

Although the Santa Maria Refinery is about 125 miles from Moorpark, the construction of a rail spur would allow for up to five deliveries of oil per week on freight trains with 80 tanker cars that are 90 feet long each. Combined with three engines and two buffer cars, these trains would be approximately 1.4 miles long and travel through Moorpark to Roseville or Colton and return along the same route.

The EIR indicates there is a small probability of an incident that would result in a release of 100 gallons or more of oil, once every 22.8 years over the entire route from Colton to the refinery, with the risk in any single city substantially less.

Millhouse, an environmental attorney who serves on the Ventura County Transportation Commission, said that it is not known if the train would even come through the Moorpark route, since not all the rails in the area are owned by Union Pacific.

He said he opposed sending a letter because trains carrying oil already travel through Moorpark and other cities, and one could argue “astronomical improbabilities” in every situation.

“Should we stop all trains in the United States and eliminate risk?” asked Millhouse.

“I’m as close to the rail track as anybody. If I felt there was a risk, I wouldn’t be in favor of this.”

Millhouse added that he isn’t in favor of creating “unnecessary hysteria” and would rather send a letter weighing in about new rail cars having additional safety measures. He noted the alternative is that oil would continue to be transported by train to Bakersfield and offloaded onto trucks, which are less safe than trains.

Councilman David Pollock said he doesn’t buy into the argument that the city should allow more risk from trains just because it’s already done.

“That kind of incrementalism just gets you to a bad place,” he said. “I feel strongly that we should show a little bit of leadership as a city to formerly object to this and hopefully other cities along this track will take notice as well.”

He said the council must look after its constituents.

“Admittedly, the incident risk is small, but if it does happen, it can be catastrophic,” Pollock said.

Moorpark opposes oil refinery's rail project

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:05pm

The Moorpark City Council agreed Wednesday to send a letter opposing a refinery rail spur extension project in Santa Maria, which could potentially expose the city to fire or explosion risk from oil tanker cars.

The council voted 3-2, with Councilmen Keith Millhouse and Mark Van Dam dissenting, to send the letter to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission opposing the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery Rail Spur Extension project. The concern centers on the risk of a possible derailment accident that would release crude oil in a populated area along the Union Pacific mainline tracks, including Moorpark.

The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission will be hearing the issue in February.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report was recently recirculated on the project, which would extend an existing rail spur of the rail mainline by an additional 6,915 feet to serve the refinery, which is 3.5 miles west of Nipomo in San Luis Obispo County.

Moorpark city staff recommended a letter in opposition be sent because it could affect city residents and businesses adjacent to the tracks. Moorpark has five public and three street railroad crossings in the city.

Although the Santa Maria Refinery is about 125 miles from Moorpark, the construction of a rail spur would allow for up to five deliveries of oil per week on freight trains with 80 tanker cars that are 90 feet long each. Combined with three engines and two buffer cars, these trains would be approximately 1.4 miles long and travel through Moorpark to Roseville or Colton and return along the same route.

The EIR indicates there is a small probability of an incident that would result in a release of 100 gallons or more of oil, once every 22.8 years over the entire route from Colton to the refinery, with the risk in any single city substantially less.

Millhouse, an environmental attorney who serves on the Ventura County Transportation Commission, said that it is not known if the train would even come through the Moorpark route, since not all the rails in the area are owned by Union Pacific.

He said he opposed sending a letter because trains carrying oil already travel through Moorpark and other cities, and one could argue “astronomical improbabilities” in every situation.

“Should we stop all trains in the United States and eliminate risk?” asked Millhouse.

“I’m as close to the rail track as anybody. If I felt there was a risk, I wouldn’t be in favor of this.”

Millhouse added that he isn’t in favor of creating “unnecessary hysteria” and would rather send a letter weighing in about new rail cars having additional safety measures. He noted the alternative is that oil would continue to be transported by train to Bakersfield and offloaded onto trucks, which are less safe than trains.

Councilman David Pollock said he doesn’t buy into the argument that the city should allow more risk from trains just because it’s already done.

“That kind of incrementalism just gets you to a bad place,” he said. “I feel strongly that we should show a little bit of leadership as a city to formerly object to this and hopefully other cities along this track will take notice as well.”

He said the council must look after its constituents.

“Admittedly, the incident risk is small, but if it does happen, it can be catastrophic,” Pollock said.

Old cars the death of teen drivers, study says

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 4:01pm

Buying your kid a cheap, old car might kill them.

Nearly half of teen drivers killed in the U.S. were driving a car more than a decade old, according to a study published Thursday by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety.

Those old cars often lack life-saving features like side airbags or electronic stability control. The researchers cautioned parents to consider the trade-off between price and safety.

"Newer vehicles generally are also more likely to have better crash test ratings and important safety features," the study said. "Parents may benefit from consumer information about vehicle choices that are both safe and economical."

Stability control, which is required on 2012 model year and later cars, can reduce single car fatalities by half, the study said. Just 1 in 10 of the deceased teens drove a car that offered it as an option.

Teen auto deaths are down 70 percent since their peak in 1978. But they’re still three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than adult drivers. In 2011, about 2,650 teens died in wrecks and almost 292,000 were treated in the ER.

The study, which compared teen deaths to those of middle aged adults, was published in the journal Injury Prevention.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on twitter at @GavinStern.

Oil Plunge Brings Jitters to Texas City

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 18, 2014 - 3:51pm
Corpus Christi has ridden a rocket of a rebirth in recent years, propelled by a more than 30-fold increase in oil production at the nearby Eagle Ford Shale. But lower oil prices are taking a toll.

Fillmore bike track a free asset to city

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 3:49pm

The new bike track at Two Rivers Park in Fillmore was designed and built by volunteers and professional contractors, with work and materials probably worth well over $100,000. The total cost to the city: $0.

Those who built the park, which is ready to open in the next week or two, donated their time and supplies to create the only free public track of its kind in Ventura County.

The volunteers are now trying to raise $10,000 to maintain the track and add more features, landscaping and benches. They’ve raised about $1,000 so far on the GoFundMe website.

“I think now that the track is done and we have something to show for it, we will do a little better raising money,” said Chano Ibarra, a member of the Fillmore Parks and Recreation Commission and a leader of the volunteer effort to build the park.

The 2-acre southwest corner of Two Rivers Park now has a “pump track” and a series of jumps and other obstacles. A pump track is a series of bumps and ramps that riders can traverse with little or no pedaling by using their body weight and momentum to “pump” bikes along.

The basic track was finished last month, and the city will open it once signs are up to warn people that the area is unsupervised and they ride at their own risk. The policy is the same at the nearby skate park.

“It should be open very soon,” Ibarra said. “Everybody is going to get their new bikes for Christmas, and we want them to be here Christmas morning to ride them.”

The track is ideal for BMX bikes, but mountain bikes work well, he said.

“It’s made for little 3-year-olds on balance bikes, and it’s made for 103-year-olds, if you can still ride,” Ibarra said. “It’s a great place to learn, and it’s challenging enough for a good rider. It’s really for everybody.”

Ibarra, a Los Angeles city firefighter, is one of the founders of Ride Heritage Valley, a bicycle club with 10 or 12 members. The group took the lead in getting city approval for the pump track and coordinated the volunteer effort to build it.

Bellfree Contractors, based in Los Angeles, designed the track for free. Grimes Rock donated and delivered soil, and MG Taylor Equipment built the track, also for free. Volunteers used their own shovels for the final shaping and smoothing of berms and jumps.

Fillmore Mayor Rick Neal said he thinks the total value of labor and materials that went into the project could be close to $150,000. He said he’d like to see the City Council budget a little money in the future for maintenance.

“This is an outstanding asset that the city got for free,” he said. “It shouldn’t cost much to keep it up, and I’d like to see us do that.”

Fillmore bike track a free asset to city

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 3:49pm

The new bike track at Two Rivers Park in Fillmore was designed and built by volunteers and professional contractors, with work and materials probably worth well over $100,000. The total cost to the city: $0.

Those who built the park, which is ready to open in the next week or two, donated their time and supplies to create the only free public track of its kind in Ventura County.

The volunteers are now trying to raise $10,000 to maintain the track and add more features, landscaping and benches. They’ve raised about $1,000 so far on the GoFundMe website.

“I think now that the track is done and we have something to show for it, we will do a little better raising money,” said Chano Ibarra, a member of the Fillmore Parks and Recreation Commission and a leader of the volunteer effort to build the park.

The 2-acre southwest corner of Two Rivers Park now has a “pump track” and a series of jumps and other obstacles. A pump track is a series of bumps and ramps that riders can traverse with little or no pedaling by using their body weight and momentum to “pump” bikes along.

The basic track was finished last month, and the city will open it once signs are up to warn people that the area is unsupervised and they ride at their own risk. The policy is the same at the nearby skate park.

“It should be open very soon,” Ibarra said. “Everybody is going to get their new bikes for Christmas, and we want them to be here Christmas morning to ride them.”

The track is ideal for BMX bikes, but mountain bikes work well, he said.

“It’s made for little 3-year-olds on balance bikes, and it’s made for 103-year-olds, if you can still ride,” Ibarra said. “It’s a great place to learn, and it’s challenging enough for a good rider. It’s really for everybody.”

Ibarra, a Los Angeles city firefighter, is one of the founders of Ride Heritage Valley, a bicycle club with 10 or 12 members. The group took the lead in getting city approval for the pump track and coordinated the volunteer effort to build it.

Bellfree Contractors, based in Los Angeles, designed the track for free. Grimes Rock donated and delivered soil, and MG Taylor Equipment built the track, also for free. Volunteers used their own shovels for the final shaping and smoothing of berms and jumps.

Fillmore Mayor Rick Neal said he thinks the total value of labor and materials that went into the project could be close to $150,000. He said he’d like to see the City Council budget a little money in the future for maintenance.

“This is an outstanding asset that the city got for free,” he said. “It shouldn’t cost much to keep it up, and I’d like to see us do that.”

Key dates in Husted killings [Video]

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 3:42pm

Key dates in the Husted killings:

May 20, 2009: Brock and Davina Husted, both 42, are stabbed to death inside their Faria Beach home by an intruder who entered through open sliding doors. Davina Husted is about four months’ pregnant. The couple’s two other children are home but not harmed.

May 30, 2009: More than 900 people fill Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Ventura for the Husteds’ funeral.

January 2010: Joshua Packer, 20, is arrested on suspicion of robbing a gas station in Santa Barbara in September 2009. Authorities collect a DNA sample.

April 2010: Ventura County sheriff’s deputies arrest Packer in Ventura on suspicion of killing the Husteds and their unborn child. Authorities say the DNA sample taken from Packer in January matched DNA collected at the Husteds’ home. Packer is charged with three counts of murder, robbery and burglary.

July 2010: Packer pleads not guilty to all of the charges in Ventura County Superior Court. Outside the courtroom, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley says his office has no intention of settling the case. “I’m sure there will be a trial,” he says.

December 2010: District Attorney Greg Totten announces he will seek the death penalty.

November 2011: The state 2nd District Court of Appeal rejects arguments by Packer’s attorneys to dismiss a grand jury indictment because one juror was an employee of the Sheriff’s Office. Packer’s attorneys had taken their case to the state Supreme Court, which sent it back to the appeals court.

May 2012: A grand jury also indicts Packer on charges he sexually assaulted Davina Husted the night the Husteds were killed. Packer pleads not guilty. A trial is scheduled for August.

August 2012: The trial is postponed after Packers’ attorneys request more time to prepare. The judge would later grant several more requests for postponements.

April 2013: Defense attorneys ask the state Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court decision denying an evidentiary hearing on whether Frawley should be removed from the case because his children knew Packer when they were younger.

May 2013: The state Supreme Court vacates the appeals court decision.

June 2013: Ventura County Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy denies a request to reconsider whether Frawley should be removed from the case.

August 2013: The 2nd District Court of Appeal upholds Murphy’s ruling.

December 2013: The state Supreme Court agrees to review Murphy’s ruling.

August 2014: Judge Murphy rejects a defense motion to allow Packer to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

October 2014: The state Supreme Court hears arguments regarding the hearing on whether Frawley should be removed from the case.

Dec. 11, 2014: The state Supreme Court issues a ruling saying the Ventura County court “abused its discretion” in not granting a hearing on Frawley’s potential conflict of interest.

Dec. 18, 2014: Prosecutors agree to not seek the death penalty. Packer pleads guilty and faces life in prison without parole. Sentencing is set for Feb. 6.

Key dates in Husted killings

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 3:42pm

Key dates in the Husted killings:

May 20, 2009: Brock and Davina Husted, both 42, are stabbed to death inside their Faria Beach home by an intruder who entered through open sliding doors. Davina Husted is about four months’ pregnant. The couple’s two other children are home but not harmed.

May 30, 2009: More than 900 people fill Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Ventura for the Husteds’ funeral.

January 2010: Joshua Packer, 20, is arrested on suspicion of robbing a gas station in Santa Barbara in September 2009. Authorities collect a DNA sample.

April 2010: Ventura County sheriff’s deputies arrest Packer in Ventura on suspicion of killing the Husteds and their unborn child. Authorities say the DNA sample taken from Packer in January matched DNA collected at the Husteds’ home. Packer is charged with three counts of murder, robbery and burglary.

July 2010: Packer pleads not guilty to all of the charges in Ventura County Superior Court. Outside the courtroom, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley says his office has no intention of settling the case. “I’m sure there will be a trial,” he says.

December 2010: District Attorney Greg Totten announces he will seek the death penalty.

November 2011: The state 2nd District Court of Appeal rejects arguments by Packer’s attorneys to dismiss a grand jury indictment because one juror was an employee of the Sheriff’s Office. Packer’s attorneys had taken their case to the state Supreme Court, which sent it back to the appeals court.

May 2012: A grand jury also indicts Packer on charges he sexually assaulted Davina Husted the night the Husteds were killed. Packer pleads not guilty. A trial is scheduled for August.

August 2012: The trial is postponed after Packers’ attorneys request more time to prepare. The judge would later grant several more requests for postponements.

April 2013: Defense attorneys ask the state Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court decision denying an evidentiary hearing on whether Frawley should be removed from the case because his children knew Packer when they were younger.

May 2013: The state Supreme Court vacates the appeals court decision.

June 2013: Ventura County Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy denies a request to reconsider whether Frawley should be removed from the case.

August 2013: The 2nd District Court of Appeal upholds Murphy’s ruling.

December 2013: The state Supreme Court agrees to review Murphy’s ruling.

August 2014: Judge Murphy rejects a defense motion to allow Packer to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

October 2014: The state Supreme Court hears arguments regarding the hearing on whether Frawley should be removed from the case.

Dec. 11, 2014: The state Supreme Court issues a ruling saying the Ventura County court “abused its discretion” in not granting a hearing on Frawley’s potential conflict of interest.

Dec. 18, 2014: Prosecutors agree to not seek the death penalty. Packer pleads guilty and faces life in prison without parole. Sentencing is set for Feb. 6.

Artistic Touch: Venturan puts soul in sculptures

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 3:38pm

Vera Maguire's sculptures feature movement, togetherness and strong women.

"I really put my soul in my sculptures," Maguire said. "I like the flow, I like the movement."

She is exhibiting her pieces at the Red Brick Gallery in Ventura, 315 E. Main St., participating in the "Stars Align" show through Jan. 14.

Born and raised in the Netherlands, Maguire has been a tour and cruise director, yoga instructor and ceramics teacher.

The oldest of three sisters, she was disappointed when her parents wouldn't let her leave her Rotterdam home at age 12 to go to art school in Amsterdam.

"I've always been interested in art — painting, working with my hands, stained glass, ceramics," she said.

But at 18, after graduating from high school, she went to Spain and began a career in the tourism industry, working as a travel agent, hotel representative and tour guide.

"From there, I went on to cruise ships," she said. "I went three times around the world."

Maguire first worked as a purser on various cruise lines, then as cruise director on the Sea Cloud, originally built for heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband, E.F. Hutton, and considered one of the most beautiful sailing cruise ships.

She met future husband, Venturan Tom Maguire, while working on the Sea Cloud, where he was first mate. They married in 1989, bought a house on Santa Cruz Street in Ventura, and had a son and daughter.

She took ceramic classes with Myra Toth at Ventura College.

"I was hooked," she said.

With her husband at sea for months at a time, she was homesick and decided to return to the Netherlands to raise her children.

Coincidentally, the Gouda Ceramics School was close to her home.

"So I went twice a week for four years," she said. "I learned everything in ceramics: handbuilding, glazing, making your own glaze, throwing, decoration — technical and also artistic."

After finishing, she ran her own studio for 15 years.

"I started with three people and at the end of the year, I had 24 students in my class," she said.

She led workshops on weekends and rented a house in France for a summer workshop. She served for 13 years on the board of the Gouda Ceramic Festival.

They came back to Ventura every summer and she met Otto Heino and Beatrice Wood in Ojai.

She moved back to Ventura last year.

"The kids were out of the house and my husband retired," she said.

She turned the garage into a studio in January.

"I didn't bring old work with me. I wanted to start fresh," she said. "I knew what I wanted this time ... pretty basic, simple forms, strong pieces. I like my glaze."

She sometimes double-dips a piece to give a two-toned effect. She uses neutral colors from nature.

"I am not a bright-color person," she said.

She met sculptor Larry Carnes in Ojai and asked him to be her mentor.

"I make everything here. I do my first bisque firing here, then I take it up to Larry and I glaze there and he fires it," she said.

She alternates weeks doing throwing and handbuilding. She decorates pieces with birds, leaves, flowers, shells and figures, making her own molds and using wooden stamps from India.

"Once or twice a month, I will do a large sculpture," she said. "It takes about a week to make. I have to let it dry in between processes."

She works three or four days a week, meditates daily and says working in clay is like meditation.

Before she left the Netherlands, she finished her Raja Yoga teaching degree and was invited to organize yoga sailing cruises in Turkey.

"I thought, ‘Whoa, this is like the last big puzzle piece in my life,' " she said. "All elements came together — traveling, creativity and mindfulness.

"If I'm not in Europe, I'm here doing my pots. How beautiful is that?" she said. "I am so happy. It's the best time of my life."

On the Net: http://www.dutchessceramics.com.

To recommend an artist to be profiled in this section or for more information, contact Nicole D'Amore at artprofiles1@gmail.com.

Live music, song circle and other events planned

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 3:38pm

Oxnard

Jazz Police band to perform Sunday

The Channel Cities Jazz Club will feature the band the Jazz Police on Sunday at the Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club, 2600 S. Harbor Blvd.

The meeting will run from 1-4:30 p.m., with the band performing at 3 p.m.

Cost is $10, or $7 for members. Visit http://www.channelcitiesjazzclub.org or call 487-3062 for more information.

Thousand Oaks

Jewish group plans its annual party

The Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley and Ventura County will have its annual Hanukkah and membership renewal party from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive.

Crista Cowan, “the Barefoot Genealogist,” will speak.

Call Jan Meisels Allen at 818-889-6616 for more information.

Ventura

Songmakers invite acoustic music fans

Songmakers.org welcomes all lovers of acoustic music to join a free song circle from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 26 at the Bell Arts Factory community room, 432 N. Ventura Ave.

Listeners are welcome. Call T.J. Zeiler at 910-7565 for more information.

Westlake Village

Leaders will speak on innovation

The Association for Corporate Growth’s 101 Corridor Chapter will meet from 7 to 9 a.m. Jan. 7 at the Westlake Village Inn, 31943 Agoura Road.

The “Deans of Innovation” panel will feature Dave Adornetto, Gerhard Apfelthaler, William P. Cordeiro, Kenneth Lord and John Mooney.

Cost is $65, or $35 for members. Visit http://www.acg101.org or call Maureen Whalen at 285-0756 for more information.

Police continue to search for Simi Valley man

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 3:38pm

The search continued Thursday for an elderly Simi Valley man last seen in late November.

Augustine Macias, 74, was last seen Nov. 20 near Tapo Street and Los Angeles Avenue after leaving his home for his daily walk.

Police said people in the area told the man’s family that they saw him walking west on Los Angeles Avenue later that day.

Simi Valley police Detective Keith Eisenhouer said Macias suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“He’s still out there and we’re concerned for his welfare because of his age and disability,” Eisenhouer said.

Eisenhouer said Macias has family in Southern California and all relatives have been asked to contact authorities if Macias goes to one of their homes. He may be disoriented and having trouble finding his way home, authorities said.

He is described as 5 feet 7 inches and about 145 pounds. He has gray hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a brown dress shirt with black jeans, a blue baseball cap with a black logo and a team jacket.

Macias is known to be an avid walker and may be a significant distance from where he was last seen.

Anyone with information on Macias’ whereabouts should call Simi Valley police at 583-6950.

Man arrested after wrong-way crash on Hwy 101

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 18, 2014 - 3:38pm

A man was arrested early Thursday after he crashed into a vehicle while driving the wrong way on Highway 101 in Thousand Oaks.

The incident was reported just before 4 a.m. near the Rancho Road exit, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Salvador Prado, 27, of Los Angeles, was heading north on the southbound side of the highway, the CHP reported. He was apparently intoxicated and driving about 80 mph, officials said.

A 48-year-old Bakersfield man saw Prado heading toward him and swerved to the right to avoid a crash, but the left side of Prado’s car hit the other car, which overturned, officials said.

Prado’s car rotated and ended up perpendicular to the traffic flow and partially in the center divider, officials said. A tractor-trailer heading south hit the overturned car, and another driver hit Prado’s vehicle.

Prado and the 48-year-old Bakersfield man were taken to Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks for their injuries, officials said. Details on the injuries were not available.

Prado was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the CHP reported.

All southbound lanes of the freeway were closed for about an hour and traffic was diverted to Highway 23, the CHP reported. The crash remained under investigation.

Dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 1:54pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle clues in the hacking tools left behind and the involvement of at least one computer in Bolivia previously traced to other attacks blamed on the North Koreans.

Experts cautioned that hackers notoriously employ disinformation to throw investigators off their tracks, using borrowed tools, tampering with logs and inserting false references to language or nationality.

The hackers are believed to have been inside the network at Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. since at least the spring, based on computer forensic evidence and traffic analysis, a person with knowledge of the investigation told the AP.

If the hackers hadn't made their presence known by making demands and destroying files, they probably would still be inside because there was no indication their presence was about to be detected, the person said. This person, who described the evidence as circumstantial, spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk openly about the case.

Still, the evidence has been considered conclusive enough that a U.S. official told the AP that federal investigators have now connected the Sony hacking to North Korea.

In public, White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday declined to blame North Korea, saying he didn't want to get ahead of investigations by the Justice Department and the FBI. Earnest said evidence shows the hacking was carried out by a "sophisticated actor" with "malicious intent."

All this has led to a dilemma for the Obama administration: How and whether to respond?

An earlier formal statement by the White House National Security Council also did not name North Korea but noted that "criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks" and promised that, "we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response. " The U.S. official who cited North Korea spoke on condition of anonymity because that official was not authorized to openly discuss an ongoing criminal case.

U.S. options against North Korea are limited. The U.S. already has a trade embargo in place, and there is no appetite for military action. Even if investigators could identify and prosecute the individual hackers believed to be responsible, there's no guarantee any one of them who is overseas would ever face trial in a U.S. courtroom. Hacking back at North Korean targets by U.S. government experts could escalate the cyberconflict by encouraging further attacks against vulnerable American targets.

"We don't sell them anything, we don't buy anything from them and we don't have diplomatic relations," said William Reinsch, a former senior U.S. Commerce Department official who was responsible for enforcing international sanctions against North Korea and other countries. "There aren't a lot of public options left."

Sony abruptly canceled the Dec. 25 release of its comedy, "The Interview," which the hackers had demanded partly because it included a scene depicting the assassination of North Korea's leader. Sony cited the hackers' threats of violence at movie theaters that planned to show the movie, although the Homeland Security Department said there was no credible intelligence of active plots. The hackers had been releasing onto the Internet huge amounts of highly sensitive — and sometimes embarrassing — confidential files they stole from inside Sony's computer network.

North Korea has publicly denied it was involved, though it has described the hack as a "righteous deed."

The episode is sure to cost Sony many millions of dollars, though the eventual damage is still anyone's guess. In addition to lost box-office revenue from the movie, the studio faces lawsuits by former employees angry over leaked Social Security numbers and other personal information. And there could be damage beyond the one company.

Sony's decision to pull the film has raised concerns that capitulating to criminals will encourage more hacking.

"By effectively yielding to aggressive acts of cyberterrorism by North Korea, that decision sets a troubling precedent that will only empower and embolden bad actors to use cyber as an offensive weapon even more aggressively in the future," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who will soon become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCain said the Obama administration had failed to control the use of cyber weapons by foreign governments, and he called the Sony case "the latest in a long and troubling list of attempts by malign actors to use cyber to undermine our economic and national security interests."

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on MSNBC that the Obama administration wasn't ready to name the attacker but was "actively considering a range of options that we'll take in response to this attack."

Evidence pinning specific crimes on specific hackers is nearly always imprecise, and the Sony case is no exception.

Sony hired FireEye Inc.'s Mandiant forensics unit, which last year published a landmark report with evidence accusing a Chinese Army organization, Unit 61398, of hacking into more than 140 companies over the years. In the current investigation, security professionals examined blueprints for the hacking tools discovered in Sony's network, the Korean language setting and time zone, and then traced other computers around the world used to help coordinate the break-in, according to the person with knowledge about the investigation.

Those computers were located in Singapore and Thailand, but a third in Bolivia had previously been traced to other attacks blamed on North Korea, the person told the AP. The tools in the Sony case included components to break into the company's network and subsequently erase all fingerprints by rendering the hard drive useless.

"The Internet's a complicated place," said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike Inc., a security company that has investigated past attacks linked to North Korea. "We're talking about organizations that understand how to hide themselves, how to appear if they're coming from other places. To that end, they know that people are going to come looking for them. They throw things in the way to limit what you can do attribution on."

Another agreed. "If you have a thousand bad pieces of circumstantial evidence, that doesn't mean your case is strong," said Jeffrey Carr, chief executive of Taia Global Inc., which provides threat intelligence to companies and government agencies.

An FBI "flash" bulletin sent to some companies with details of the hacking software described it as "destructive malware, a disk wiper with network beacon capabilities." The FBI bulletin included instructions for companies to listen for telltale network traffic that would suggest they had been infected.

Other movie studios aren't taken chances. 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.
 

'Team America' protest screenings shut down

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 1:46pm

"Team America" won't be coming to save the day this time.

Paramount Pictures has squashed an attempt by some movie theaters to screen a 10 year old film that parodies North Korea.

Theaters wanted to show “Team America: World Police,” a 2004 marionette comedy by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, to protest Sony's cancellation of “The Interview,” which was to premiere on Christmas.

Please note: Our Late Shift screening of Team America: World Police has been canceled by Paramount Pictures. pic.twitter.com/TlPVzIeICW

— Capitol Theatre (@CapitolW65th) December 18, 2014

Hackers threatened cinemas that screened “The Interview” because the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy was about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They also leaked sensitive data from Sony.

The cult classic “Team America” prominently featured Kim Jong Un’s father – then the leader of North Korea – Kim Jong Il. The movie ends with Kim Jong Il’s death by impalement.

Then, a cockroach crawls out of his mouth and flies away in a spaceship.

It’s a weird movie.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on twitter at @GavinStern.

IRS: Tax-Filing Season Likely to Start on Time

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 18, 2014 - 1:08pm
The 2015 tax-filing season is likely headed for an on-time start, the Internal Revenue Service chief said Thursday, despite congressional negotiations over some tax provisions that lasted until mid-December.

Packer pleads guilty; D.A. drops death penalty

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 12:33pm

Joshua Packer pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder for the death of a Faria Beach couple and their unborn son nearly five years ago, with prosecutors agreeing to not seek the death penalty anymore.

Packer appeared before Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to killing Brock Husted and his pregnant wife, Davina. The couple were watching “American Idol” on May 20, 2009, when Packer entered their beach home through an open glass door and demanded money at gunpoint, prosecutors said.

Packer sexually assaulted Davina Husted, then stabbed the couple to death.

Packer was facing the death penalty but now faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Feb. 6.

Thursday’s plea came after the state Supreme Court ordered the lower court to hold a hearing on whether Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley should be removed from the case because his children once spent time with Packer in a Christian youth group.

The defense says Packer had long been willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office would not agree.

Frawley said the district attorney’s decision to allow Packer to change his plea Thursday from not guilty to guilty was made after the Supreme Court decision.

“That would have extended this case another year, and we couldn’t ask the victims’ family to endure that,” Frawley said. “They still think (Packer) deserves the death penalty, but this got to be too much for the family to bear, with the tension and anxiety hanging over their heads.”

Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael McMahon said Packer’s life term was a “just and fair closure for Mr. Packer, his victims and the entire community.”

“Mr. Packer himself was the victim of incredible physical and sexual abuse and other mitigating trauma” as a child, McMahon said. “He struggled hard to escape, fit in and mature under the most difficult of circumstances.”

The state Supreme Court issued a ruling Dec. 11 saying the Ventura County court “abused its discretion” in not granting a hearing on Frawley’s potential conflict of interest. According to the defense, Packer was part of the Young Life group along with Frawley’s son in 2006 and Frawley’s daughter in 2008. Defense attorneys said Packer, who attended Ventura High School, had been in Frawley’s home during social events involving the youth group.

Judge Murphy denied a hearing and motion to recuse Frawley from the case. The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura also ruled Frawley could stay on the case, so the defense successfully appealed to the state Supreme Court.

This story will be updated.

ArtsBeat: Cuba: A Reading List

NY Times Books - December 18, 2014 - 11:43am
Recommended books for learning more about Cuba’s history and its relationship to the United States.






Ojai Valley vegan cafe joins food-truck brigade

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 11:25am

Winner, winner, Schmicken dinner.

Fans of the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-chicken substitute made by Mario Librandi of Vegan Mario’s now have three ways to get the cutlets made from spices, wheat gluten and sprouted lentils and split peas: at the café in Oak View, in the mail via orders placed on the Vegan Mario’s website, and/or from the solar-powered refrigeration units aboard the cafe’s newly launched packaged-foods truck.

“It’s an active rather than passive way of spreading the word about healthy food,” Librandi said.

Painted white with black lettering that announces “handmade with love in small batches,” the former Connecticut school bus made its debut Sunday at the Ojai Certified Farmers Market. The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at 300 E. Matilija St. It will be a regular stop as the bus makes the rounds of public and private events with a menu of plant-based raw, vegan and/or gluten-free fare.

Librandi plans to convert the bus from diesel to biodiesel. Its refrigerators and freezers already are powered by a 270-watt solar panel that he plugs into the bus via a sunshine-yellow cord.

For its maiden voyage the bus was stocked with canning jars of cold-pressed juices ($8-$11), wrapped squares of what Librandi calls the World’s Healthiest Brownie (made from a variety of seeds combined with dates and cacao, $4), tofu scramble breakfast calzones ($11) and frozen, take-home Schmicken ($4 for a package of three) and Gonzoballs, a gluten-free combination of quinoa, lentils and garbanzo beans ($9 for five).

That’s just a hint of the cafe’s more extensive menu, which includes raw pastas (price varies) and thin-crust pizzas topped with Shaushage and cashew cheese ($14 and up). Librandi and wife Amanda Congdon Librandi opened the café this spring after moving the business from a commercial kitchen in Santa Barbara.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute, Librandi designed the eco-friendly building to include benches and tables fashioned from wood salvaged from the site’s previous structure. A sign on the wall notes that, while seating is available, “fine dining it is not. ... Vegan Mario’s is a grab-and-go commercial kitchen.”

Patrons are encouraged to call in their orders before grabbing-and-going, and to bring with them clean, dry reusable food containers for a discount.

The café is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (625 N. Ventura Ave., 500-3287, https://veganmario.com/w/).

Lisa McKinnon’s column also appears in the Sunday Life section. Send email to lmckinnon@vcstar.com.

Young VC team ready to step up game

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 18, 2014 - 11:07am

The Ventura College men’s basketball team may be off to its slowest start since he returned five years ago, but Joey Ramirez isn’t worried.

The head coach can see where the Pirates are on the learning curve.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys,” Ramirez said. “We’re trying to figure it out. I’m not concerned.”

After winning its first two games, Ventura (5-7) has won just three of its past 10. The Pirates will bring a four-game losing streak to Visalia this weekend for the College of the Sequoias tournament, which it opens Friday against Porterville.

“It’s been tough, especially losing like this,” sophomore Vondel Faniel said. “With the guys we’ve got and the team we have, that’s going to change. We’re going to pick it up.”

Power forward Vondel Faniel and guard Rodney Bryant are the only returning sophomores from last year’s 17-13 team, which entered the final day of the season a win away from sharing the Western State Conference title and eliminated defending state champion Mount San Antonio in the first round of the Southern California regional playoffs.

“Coming in as a freshman, there was more than one sophomore,” Faniel said. “There were four or five. There’s a lot they can teach you about how college is different than high school.

“I’m still explaining.”

Talent is not the issue.

Faniel, the primary inside threat, is averaging a 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

“He’s trying,” Ramirez said. “The only thing we need from Vondel is ... to be a little bit tougher. Go get things. Sometimes it’s good to let things come to you, he’s got to really pick it up a notch and be a lot more aggressive.”

Freshman guard Robert Hunt, who leads the team at 13.2 points per game, has scored 20 or more points three times. The Memphis native scored 27 points, including the late game-winning bucket, in the 65-64 win over Cuyamaca on Nov. 21.

“He’s been our most consistent offensive player,” Ramirez said. “I don’t think we’ve had anyone be consistent on both ends. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Point guard Jalon Wilson, the son of Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, has made seven starts at point guard, averging 2.8 assists per game.

“He’s a prototypical pass-first point guard,” Ramirez said. “He’s a facilitator.”

Despite missing three games with injury, combo guard Jamal Lewis has shown flashes of being both a playmaker and a finisher.

“He’s expanding his game,” Ramirez said.

Although he’s missed the last five games with an injury, guard Elijah Brown should give the Pirates a much needed defensive boost when he returns this weekend.

“He’s a lockdown defender,” Ramirez said. “He brings a different type of mantra for our team, especially defensively. He’s a tough kid.”

High-flying Toure Atwater showed he’s the type of show-stopping finisher who can pack the gym during the slam dunk contest at Midnight Madness. The wing from Chicago is shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point land.

“He’s athletic,” Ramirez said. “He brings that piece that we don’t have. He can create on his own.”

After missing the first six games of season, Pacifica High product Eric Davis made an immediately impact with consecutive 16-point performances at the Irvine Valley tournament.

The talent continues to flow to the end of the bench, which is why 14 of the 15 players on the roster have earned starts through 12 games as the Pirates have searched for the right combinations.

“We’re trying to mesh together,” Hunt said. “We’ve got bits and pieces. He’s throwing different things at us to try to turn it around.”

Offensively, the Pirates need to be more efficient. VC is shooting 40.5 percent from the field, which places them 72nd among the 92 schools in the state.

Meanwhile, they are allowing opponents to shoot 47.1 percent, which is 79th in the state.

“It’s always a new adjustment with a new team and new teammates,” Hunt said. “If it was easy, we would have fixed it by now.”

With just three weeks until the WSC North opener against No. 7 Cuesta (9-3), time is running out. Luckily, a hole in the schedule just allowed the team two solid weeks of practice while it also focused on final exams.

“We’ve been practicing really good,” Faneil said. “We’ve been looking real good. ... We’re trying to become one team, to get every guy all into this basketball team. It’s getting better now. I can see it’s getting better.”

 

VENTURA COLLEGE
Nickname: Pirates.
Coach: Joey Ramirez (4th year).
Assistant coaches: Chris Wade, Hakeem Ward.
2014-15 start: 5-7.
2013-14 record, division finish: 17-13, 9-3, second.
2013-14 playoffs: Seeded No. 19 in Southern California regional playoffs. Def. No. 14 Mt. San Antonio, 82-67. Lost to No. 3 Mt. San Jacinto, 78-56, in regional quarterfinals.
STARTING LINEUP
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school
PG     Jalon Wilson     Fr.     5-10    Palisades
SG     Robert Hunt     Fr.     6-2     Memphis, Tenn.
G     Jamal Lewis     Fr.     6-1    Brooklyn, N.Y.
SF    Eric Davis    So.    6-5    Pacifica
PF    Vondel Faniel    So.    6-6    Knight
BENCH
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school

G     Elijah Brown     Fr.     6-1     Newark, N.J.
G     Toure Atwater     Fr.     6-3     Chicago
G     Devon Watkins    Fr.    6-3    Bakersfield-South
G     Steven Bush     Fr.     6-2     East Orange, N.J.
G     D’dante Freeman     Fr.     6-1    Wyandanch, N.Y
F     Nathaniel Claxton     Fr.     6-5    Modesto Christian
F     Gabriel Lemon     Fr.     6-8     Houston
F     Chris Thompson     Fr.     6-6      Long Beach Poly
RECORD BOOK
2014: 17-13     2009: 24-9*
2013: 24-7*     2008: 27-7*
2012: 19-12     2007: 27-7*#^
2011: 22-7*     2006: 27-7*^
2010: 8-17       2005: 25-5*^
* WSC North title #State Final Four
^ School vacated all wins

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