Caption - The Camp Fire as seen from above. Photo Courtesy NASA
UPDATED 2 PM EST: Starting on Nov. 8, parts of the largest state in the nation were turned into an inferno due to the destructive power of nature.
On Camp Creek Road in the Northern California area of Butte County, a fire broke out just after 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time that would become the most devastating in the history of that state. Now known as the Camp Fire, the blaze has burned over 135,000 acres, destroyed at least 7,700 buildings, injured several firefighters, and caused at least 50 fatalities as of 2 p.m. Nov. 14. Several towns were evacuated, and the town of Paradise was completely destroyed.
That same day, in Southern California, another blaze broke out in Ventura County. This fire, dubbed the Woolsey Fire, began just before 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time, and was powered by Santa Ana Winds in excess of 50 mph. Eventually, it forced evacuations in several communities, including Thousand Oaks, which was already reeling from the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting less than 24 hours earlier.
Around 100,000 acres have been engulfed, and two people have died so far. Because of the location in Ventura and even part of Los Angeles county, over 265,000 people were told to evacuate.
Meanwhile, the Hill Fire, also located in Ventura, has burned over 4,500 acres. However, firefighters were able to swiftly contain this blaze, whereas the Camp and Woolsey Fires are still burning as of Nov. 14, 2018.
Among those to lose homes due to the fire were several celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Gerard Butler, Neil Young, and “Doctor Strange” director Scott Derrickson.
“Completely devestated by the fires affecting my community. I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now. My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong. I am grateful for,” Cyrus posted on Twitter.
In addition to the homes, several key filming locations were scorched, including the Paramount Ranch and spots for reality television programs.
On Nov. 10, President Trump posted to Twitter, “More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California…Our hearts are with those fighting the fires…The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.”
This post came hours after this one that angered scores of people: “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Critics pointed out the insensitive timing of the tweet, as well as how Trump himself has cut needed funds from such programs to counter fires.
“This is an absolutely heartless response. There aren’t even politics involved. Just good American families losing their homes as you tweet, evacuating into shelters,” singer Katy Perry posted.
“Dear @realDonaldTrump: What is wrong with you? Disaster victims deserve help & sympathy. Oh, and guess who owns much of the forest land in CA? Your federal agencies. CA only owns 2%. Guess who cut funding to forest management in the budget? YOU DID,” Congressman Ted Lieu posted in response.
Thousand Oaks, CA - On the 311th day of 2018, the United States of America saw its 307th defined “mass shooting.”
On the night of Nov. 7, 28-year-old former Marine Ian David Long committed an act no one would suspect of one sworn to protect. At 11:20 Pacific Time, Long arrived just outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, armed with smoke bombs, a legally owned Glock 21 .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and an illegal extended magazine. The shooter, who frequented the establishment regularly, fired upon the guard outside the venue, and then went inside and shot more guards before shooting patrons.
In all, 13 died at the bar, including Long himself from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, right before authorities could confront him. Reports have surfaced that months ago, authorities were called to Long’s home for a possible psychotic episode, but did not request a 5150 involuntary medical hold at the time.
Among the dead were 54-year-old Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who heroically ran inside in an attempt to stop Long; Alaina Housley, an 18-year-old niece of “Sister, Sister” star Tamera Mowry-Housley and her husband Adam Housley; and Telemachus Orfanos, who was killed after surviving the Route 91 Las Vegas music festival mass shooting last year.
As many around the nation gave their prayers and support to the Thousand Oaks community, several famous figures chimed in via their Twitter accounts as well.
“Heartbroken for our community. Thinking about everyone involved as well as friends and family of the victims. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff posted.
“...Great bravery shown by police. California Highway Patrol was on scene within 3 minutes, with first officer to enter shot numerous times. That Sheriff’s Sergeant died in the hospital. God bless all of the victims and families of the victims. Thank you to Law Enforcement,” President Donald Trump posted.
Several New Jersey leaders also reacted to the incident.
“12 people, including a police officer, lost in another horrific shooting in America. I am praying for those affected, but I’m continually angry the Congress hasn’t acted. There is so much we could do to fight gun violence, and the legislation is ready to go. We just need to start,” U.S. Senator Bob Menendez posted.
“We all feel despair following mass shootings - last night in Thousand Oaks, two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, last winter in Parkland. But we are spurred to act. I will not let the next generation of New Jerseyans grow up in fear. I will not stop fighting for commonsense gun safety,” Governor Phil Murphy posted, not long after signing off on legislation banning ghost guns.
As authorities combed over Long’s history to find a motive for the heinous act, this Facebook post was attributed to the five-year military man, said to be suffering from PTSD: “I hope people call me insane...wouldn't that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah. I'm insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is 'hopes and prayers' or 'keep you in my thoughts'... every time... and wonder why these keep happening...”
As the remains of Upper Montclair resident Angela Michelle Bledsoe were brought home to Clinton, Md. for her Nov. 2 funeral at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, the man who is accused of murdering her has been brought to justice.
Mourners remembered Bledsoe, 44, as national parliamentarian for the Florida A&M University Alumni Association, raising $700,000 at one alumni breakfast for the association's scholarship program. The Florida A&M Class of 1997 finance graduate was also involved with the Delta Sigma Theta's Montclair and Brooklyn chapters and was a Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey "cookie mom."
Bledsoe came to Montclair by way of J. P. Morgan Chase and, more recently, becoming a financial services consultant for Securities America in New York. She and 55-year-old James Ray III moved into 304 Mountain Ave., where they had a six-year-old daughter. Responding Montclair police found Bledsoe, dying from several gunshot wounds, just before midnight Oct. 22
On Nov. 7, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, and Montclair Police Chief Todd Conforti announced that Ray was captured in Cuba and returned to New Jersey to face murder charges for fatally shooting Bledsoe.
“Today we have in custody James R. Ray, III, who is charged with the murder of Angela Bledsoe, the mother of his daughter, and the woman with whom he shared a home on North Mountain Avenue in Montclair,” said Acting Essex County Prosecutor Stephens.
“The defendant was apprehended in Cuba before he could go through customs. Working with our federal and international law enforcement partners we were able to identify him as our suspect and arrange to have him returned to New Jersey. He arrived back in the state last night,” Acting Prosecutor Stephens said.
This case is unique because of the extraordinary cooperation and coordination among local, county, state, national and international law enforcement, Acting Prosecutor Stephens emphasized.
“I want to commend our law enforcement partners at every level for their professionalism and willingness to work with us to successfully bring this defendant back to New Jersey to face justice,” said Acting Prosecutor Stephens.
“The FBI appreciates the cooperation and collaboration by local, state, and federal partners, especially the Department of Homeland Security, which have made the return of James Ray III possible,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie. “This arrest reflects the commitment of the FBI to work with our law enforcement partners around the world to ensure that criminals who try to escape prosecution are forced to answer for the crimes they committed.”
“The return of James Ray is a direct result of the outstanding law enforcement partnerships that HSI shares here in New Jersey,” said Brian Michael, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Newark.
Ray is expected to make his first court appearance on Tuesday, Nov. 13 before Judge Martin G. Cronin, Judge of the Superior Court, to determine if he will be detained.
Acting Prosecutor Stephens credited the Montclair Police Department, the Allentown, Pa. Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Coast Guard, Enforcement and Removal Operations Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Embassy in Havana for the successful capture of Ray.
The investigation remains active and ongoing. These are accusations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide/Major Crimes Task Force tips line at 1-877-TIPS-4EC or 1-877-847-7432.
TRENTON - Laboratory tests have confirmed another medically fragile child with adenovirus as part of an ongoing outbreak investigation at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell.
As of Nov. 5, a total of 29 confirmed pediatric cases have been associated with this outbreak. In addition, a staff member at the facility - who has since recovered - also became ill as part of the outbreak. There have been 10 deaths associated with this outbreak.
The most recent date of illness onset was on Nov. 5.
To date, the individuals associated with the outbreak became ill between Sept. 26 and Nov. 5. The affected children had severely compromised immune systems - including respiratory problems - before the outbreak began.
Adenovirus has an incubation period of 2-14 days, meaning that symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. This later onset of illness is not unexpected due to the long incubation period of adenovirus. The Department will not consider the outbreak over until four weeks after the last illness onset.
The facility will not admit new residents for the duration of the outbreak.
This is an active investigation of an outbreak of adenovirus, so it is possible that lab tests will confirm additional cases. A Department of Health Communicable Disease Service staff member is on site at the facility and monitoring the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is assisting with lab testing and expertise.
“The loss of these young lives is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with the families who are affected,” Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. “We are working closely with the facility to conduct respiratory illness surveillance and ensure all infection control protocols are continuously followed. We are also engaging in discussions with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on standards for these facilities.”
A Department of Health team of infection control experts and epidemiologists will visit University Hospital and four pediatric long-term care facilities - including Wanaque - in November to conduct training and assessments of infection control procedures, Commissioner Elnahal announced earlier this week.
Adenovirus is a respiratory virus which can cause mild or serious illness, though serious illness is less common. Symptoms may include common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, bladder inflammation or infection, inflammation of the stomach and intestines and neurological disease.
On Oct. 30, the Department released the final report from the Oct. 21, 2018 unannounced inspection of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell.
Caption - One of many mugshots attributed to MAGA Bomber Cesar Sayoc, Jr.
WASHINGTON - After a week of dangerous parcels being sent through the mail, it would appear that the person dubbed the “MAGA Bomber” is in custody.
On October 26, 2018, authorities arrested 56-year-old Cesar Altieri Sayoc, Jr. in connection with several crude pipe bombs mailed to prominent democrats, including former U.S. Presidents, senators, and more. Sayoc, was taken into custody while at an Auto Zone in Plantation, Florida. As of this posting, he has been charged with five federal counts.
The suspect’s van, which was seized by the authorities, was covered in political stickers and pro-Trump materials. His status as a staunch Trump support has led many to dub him #MAGABomber, or “Make America Great Again” Bomber.
Sayoc had a long rap sheet dating back to 1991. So far, none of the devices that were sent exploded, and the white powder associated with the packages was deemed nonhazardous.
“I want to applaud the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern District of New York, the NYPD, and all Law Enforcement partners across the Country for their incredible work, skill and determination!” President Donald Trump posted on Twitter.
Sayoc is currently facing a lengthy prison sentence, which prosecutors could be trying to add to, given the energetic material the bombs were made of, as well as the powder and shards of glass to maximize the effect. The prosecution is also trying to add domestic terrorism to the charges.
Here now is a timeline of what happened, and those who were recipients of mail bombs:
Oct. 22: George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist who has been critical of President Trump, received an explosive device.
Oct. 23-24: News broke that one home in Washington, DC belonging to former President Barack Obama and another belonging to former POTUS Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, NY had packages sent to them with explosive contents. While this was going on, CNN’s Time Warner Center was evacuated after a pipe bomb and white powder were found inside a package in the mailroom.
During a press conference to address the matter, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he also received an explosive package, which he said was being handled. Actor and vocal Trump citric Robert De Niro was also sent a package to his place in Tribeca.
Also, on Oct. 24, it was reported that a package deemed suspicious was mailed to a former Washington address of former US Attorney General Eric Holder. That package was returned to an office belonging to former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as that office was on the return label. Then, it was reported that an office belonging to current U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) also got a perilous package. The parcel sent to Waters was intercepted at a congressional facility.
The Secret service released the following statement: “Late on October 23, 2018, the Secret Service recovered a single package addressed to Former First Lady Hillary Clinton in Westchester County, New York. Early this morning, October 24, 2018, a second package addressed to the residence of Former President Barack Obama was intercepted by Secret Service personnel in Washington, DC.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such. Both packages were intercepted prior to being delivered to their intended location. The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
“The Secret Service has initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked the Secret Service for intercepting the package before it did any harm. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced the bomb mailings.
“Those behind such reprehensible acts must be brought to justice,” said Ryan. “We cannot tolerate any attempt to terrorize public figures.”
“We condemn the attempted attacks against fmr Pres Obama, the Clintons, @CNN & others. These cowardly actions are despicable & have no place in this Country. Grateful for swift response of @SecretService, @FBI & local law enforcement. Those responsible will be brought to justice,” Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter.
President Trump then replied to that tweet, posting, “I agree wholeheartedly!”
Oct. 25: Former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Chief John Brennan have suspicious packages sent to them.
Oct. 26: U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) had a bomb mailed to him at his Camden office. Booker was the 11th recipient of a bomb, while good friend and fellow Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the 13th person to receive a bomb. In between them was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose package was intercepted at a mail facility in Hell’s Kitchen in New York. The 14th recipient was Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has called for Trump’s impeachment on several occasions.
Local Talk Barred from Newark City Hall
NEWARK - Due to the actions of some people involved with the Baraka team, “Local Talk Weekly Newspaper” has become the news, rather than reporting it.
Our publication, “Local Talk Weekly Newspaper” has been banned from City Hall in Newark, New Jersey. Based on the account of the person delivering the paper there, it was allegedly by the order of Chief of Staff Amiri Baraka, Jr.
The first incident occurred on April 19, 2018. Walter Elliott, who is also a “Local Talk” journalist, sought to make delivery of the paper as usual, but was accosted by individuals at City Hall.
This is Mr. Elliott’s account of the incident: “My delivery rounds at Newark City Hall started out like most Thursday afternoons. After going through the security checkpoint in the basement, I began placing papers at their usual places on the basement, third floor and second floor levels,” said Mr. Elliott.
“I got off one of the elevators on the second floor, dropped off five copies at the southwestern corner office and walked down the hall to the northwest corner, where the Mayor's office and a security guard desk is stationed. There were six people at that corner, including two plainclothes NPD officers, two people wearing white-on-blue "Team Baraka" hats and a woman in a blue-collar City of Newark uniform.”
“The first sign of anything unusual was a, ‘You can't put that there,’ from one of the plainclothes officers. I turned and raised my eyebrows. I was about to say, ‘I've been (personally) placing them there for seven years,’ when I decided to continue on my second-floor deliveries.
“Before I made the right-hand turn for Room 214, I noticed that the blue uniformed woman had an armful of ‘Local Talks’ the ones I had just recently placed.
“I was leaving Room 214 to take the elevator and leave City hall when I noticed a uniformed Newark Police Division officer at the top landing of the stairs next to the elevator. His badge number was 305; his name may have been ‘Monterosa,’ wearing a leather jacket and holding a walkie-talkie in one of his hands. He's a regular City Hall presence.
“Then he turned to me and said, ‘I just got the word. I've nothing personally against the paper but I've been told you are to no longer distribute them in City Hall. If you have any questions, have your boss call the Chief of Staff.’
“I normally go straight out of City Hall for our next delivery stop. This time, however, I took a longer walk along the basement hallway to see what happened to those papers I have just delivered there.
“All the ‘Local Talks,’ except for the 10 copies in the luncheonette room, have been removed. I did not go back to Room 214 nor the third floor.
“I parked my portable handcart, with the last of the three bundles I had brought to City Hall at the foot of the steps to the corner mailroom. I wanted to check on those 25 copies.
“I walked up the six steps, looked at the counter and found no copies there. I looked in vain for a bell or a buzzer nor no one was visible on the other side of the counter.
“I turned around to take the six steps down - and someone in that time had taken the last bundle (in my cart)!”
“Local Talk” Editor-in-Chief Dhiren Shah attempted to reach out on to the director of communications and the communications department to clear up the issue. However, he did not get a reply from them. Afterwards, Shah wrote city officials an email, informing them that this was a violation of First Amendment rights, and also to request an apology from A. Baraka’s if indeed he had ordered the papers to be banned.
On April 25, 2018 just after 2 p.m., A. Baraka finally replied. He denied having made the decree to effectively ban “Local Talk” from City Hall. He also said that if there was an issue, he could be called upon to clear up the matter and would personally ensure that the papers are delivered without people saying that it was not allowed.
On April 26, 2018, Mr. Elliott attempted to deliver the current edition of “Local Talk” at City Hall. However, he was stopped by a security guard, part of a contracted security detail, by the name of “Jarrett” who said that the Chief of Staff said the papers were not allowed inside City Hall.
After a series of phone calls, Frank Baraff, director of communications for the City of Newark, did speak on Mr. Elliott’s behalf, and delivery of the papers to City Hall was eventually completed.
Nonetheless, the comments made by this guard would suggest that A. Baraka was behind hindering delivery of “Local Talk” newspaper to City Hall, and is actively suppressing the rights of “Local Talk” as members of the press.
The actions taken by the Chief of Staff mimic the actions of the Trump Administration, dismissing media coverage as “Fake News,” etc. in an attempt to restrict the power of the press.
The situation was so egregious that NJ.com even ran an article about the ordeal, which can be found at this link: http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2018/04/local_paper_accuses_newark_of_censorship_after_400.html
As of this posting, “Local Talk” has not received any word from Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, as his press secretary was contacted twice via email.
Shah said that he would like to resolve this amicably, but if the administration is not willing to do so, then the publication would continue to “let the people know what is happening.”