Tag Archive: Los Angeles


Published on Jan 31, 2014

As the drought deepens, California’s Department of Water Resources said today it will provide no more water from the state water project to the 29 agencies that use it. KABC’s Michael Linder reports.


California drought: State Water Project will deliver no water this summer

Posted:   01/31/2014 01:10:58 PM PST | Updated:   a day ago

At Folsom Lake, Calif.,  the boat ramp is several hundred yards  from the water’s edge, January 2014.

At Folsom Lake, Calif., the boat ramp is several hundred yards from the water’s edge, January 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

For the first time in its 54-year history, the State Water Project, a backbone of California’s water system, will provide no water to urban residents or farmers this year because of the severe drought, state officials said Friday.

The announcement does not mean that communities will have no water this summer. But it does mean that every region is largely on its own now and will have to rely on water stored in local reservoirs, pumped from underground wells, recycled water and conservation to satisfy demand.

Silicon Valley and parts of the East Bay — particularly residents of Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin, who receive 80 percent of their water each year from the State Water Project — will feel the impact the most in the Bay Area.

Hardest hit, however, will be the state’s huge agriculture industry.

“We expect hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the Central Valley to go unplanted,” said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “That will cause severe economic problems in our rural regions — loss of jobs and economic activity, with all the heartache that entails.”

The state’s decision to turn off its main spigot will be re-evaluated every month and could change if California sees significant rainfall in February, March and April, state water officials said at a Friday morning news conference.

Still, the news highlighted how California is in uncharted territory this year. Last year was the driest in the state’s recorded history back to 1850. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 15 percent of normal, even after a storm this week. And January set more records for lack of rainfall.

“Today’s action is a stark reminder that California’s drought is real,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. “We’re taking every possible step to prepare the state for the continuing dry conditions we face.”

Bay Area impact

The State Water Project, approved by voters in 1960 and a key legacy of former Gov. Pat Brown, the governor’s late father, is a massive system of 21 dams and 701 miles of pipes and canals that moves water from Northern California to the south. It essentially takes melting snow from the Sierra Nevada, captures it and transports it from Lake Oroville in Butte County through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta all the way to San Diego. In doing so, it provides drinking water for 23 million people from Silicon Valley to the Los Angeles basin and irrigates about 750,000 acres of farmland.

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Wine stocks could run dry as devastating drought in California threatens harvests and forces farmers to plant fewer crops

  • Officials ban access to vast reservoir to try to protect dwindling supplies
  • State would need snow and rain every other day from now until May to restore water levels
  • Ghost town submerged since 1950s revealed as reservoir runs low

By Daily Mail Reporter


As a drought tightens its grip on California, farmers in the Golden State are fearing harvests of almonds, oranges and grapes could be lost.

The state’s famed vineyards and other farms will be further affected by the decision yesterday to not send water from a vast reservoir system to local agencies in spring.

The unprecedented move means water supplies for 25 million people, and irrigation for one million acres of farmland, will be forced to look to other sources.

Run dry: A boating speed limit buoy stands out on the dry bed of Black Butte Lake last month

Run dry: A boating speed limit buoy stands out on the dry bed of Black Butte Lake last month

The announcement was timed to give farmers more time to determine what crops they will plant this year and in what quantities.

Farmers and ranchers throughout the state already have felt the drought’s impact, tearing out orchards, fallowing fields and trucking in alfalfa to feed cattle on withered range land.

Without deliveries of surface water, farmers and other water users often turn to pumping from underground aquifers. The state has no role in regulating such pumping.

‘A zero allocation is catastrophic and woefully inadequate for Kern County residents, farms and businesses,’ Ted Page, president the Kern County Water Agency’s board, said in a statement.

‘While many areas of the county will continue to rely on ground water to make up at least part of the difference, some areas have exhausted their supply.’


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Earth Watch Report  –  Earthquakes

An earthquake struck near Salinas, located in Northern California, on Tuesday evening, and a few hours later, another quake hit near Fontana in Southern California.

The Salinas quake was registered at 3.3-magnitude and hit about 30 miles south of San Jose and 100 miles southeast of San Francisco, said the U.S. Geological Service.

On Twitter, a number of people said they felt the quake.

The temblor was located about 12 miles south of Gilroy and a mile west of Hollister.

AP update for Fontana quake:


Earthquake USA State of California, [About 3 miles north of Fontana] Damage level Details


Earthquake in USA on Wednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 09:41 (09:41 AM) UTC.

Strong earthquake occurred about 3 miles north of Fontana, California, USA. The magnitude was 4.5, the hypocentre was 5 kilometers. Conceivable minor damage because the quake occurred in densely populated areas.


Earthquake in USA on Wednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 09:41 (09:41 AM) UTC.


Updated: Wednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 17:39 UTC
An earthquake, initially measured at a 4.4 magnitude, shook parts of the Los Angeles area early Wednesday morning. The epicenter of the shaker was four miles west-northwest of Rialto in San Bernardino County, apparently five kilometers beneath a house in a subdivision, based on geographic coordinates and Google’s streetview maps. Police and other emergency services say they had no reports of damage. The U.S. Geological Survey says it had reports from residents as far away as Long Beach that they felt a light shaking.


Earthquake in USA on Wednesday, 15 January, 2014 at 09:41 (09:41 AM) UTC.


Updated: Thursday, 16 January, 2014 at 05:54 UTC
A Fontana earthquake shook the Southern California region this morning, with the 4.4 level earthquake being 3 miles deep and having weak tremors reported by witnesses. The trembling was still said to be quite strong by some residents in San Bernardino County, and hit at roughly 1:35 a.m. early on Wednesday. The Inquisitr provides a recap of what happened with this natural phenomenon this Jan. 15, 2014. The Fontana earthquake was not felt by some Fontana and Rialto residents because many were asleep at the time. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 4.4 magnitude earthquake registered approximately 3 miles deep and left no serious damage to buildings or injuries to people. However, many citizens in the region confirmed that they felt the tremors shaking the ground, though most were weak to moderate level in strength. As stated by one Rialto resident, Ms. Alysha Griggs, to a local news source: The earthquake felt pretty big … It shook my whole house.” She added that the tremors lasted roughly 10 seconds, and caused quite a scare for her dog as well. Another local resident added that the Fontana earthquake was mild on her end. However, she did announce that the 4.4 quake still had powerful enough tremors to shake the mirror from her bedroom wall and break it. She wasn’t the only one. “Other citizens throughout the county region similarly experienced minor damage as furnishings were shaken off their counters and walls. However, authorities in Fontana, Los Angeles, and Rialto, have confirmed that nobody was seriously harmed in the overall weak Fontana earthquake.” Unforgettably, the 3-miles-deep earthquake struck Southern California only a single day after the mayor of Los Angeles announced his new plan to prepare the public for earthquake safety in case of a shaky emergency. The program centers around fortifying buildings that would have the potential to crack and fall and during a more powerful natural disaster. Los Angeles, including the Fontana region, is a high-risk area for earthquakes, notes one U.S. geological expert and seismologist: “Los Angeles County has one-quarter of the nation’s seismic risk in our county alone… 10 million people on top of 100 faults… If we can come up with a solution here … it’d make a big difference.”



FONTANA: Earthquake sets off alarms, causes minor damage

Norman Sayeg at his Rialto home, there is a crack in the concrete pad outside, and some cracks in the window from the earthquake on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. -- KURT MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Norman Sayeg at his Rialto home, there is a crack in the concrete pad outside, and some cracks in the window from the earthquake on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. — KURT MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A 4.4-magnitude earthquake that struck early Wednesday, Jan. 15, in Fontana caused havoc to local residents.

Pictures fell off the walls, drawers and cabinets flew open and makeup toppled off bathroom shelves at the home of Donald Rhoads, who lives almost directly above the epicenter.

He was sleeping in his upstairs bedroom when the temblor struck at  1:35 a.m. Friday, Jan. 15, about three miles north of the city in the Sierra Lakes neighborhood.

“We’d never felt anything like that, never,” Rhoads said.

The earthquake was violent and sudden, unlike most quakes he has felt, which begin and end gradually.

“It felt like a bomb was going off in my house,” he said.

As everything shook, he heard thinks crashing down and shattering throughout his house.

“I heard everything falling like the house was caving in,” he said.

The quake damaged two windows at another home a few miles away in Rialto.

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Los Angeles Times Local

1971 Sylmar quake

Shown is a home destroyed in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, in which one side of the San Fernando fault moved as much as 8 feet. About 80% of the buildings along the fault suffered moderate to severe damage, illustrating the risks of building atop faults. (Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing a sharp increase in the state budget to map earthquake faults in California, after months of reports about how the state’s effort has been hobbled by budget cuts over the last two decades.

Brown is seeking enough money from lawmakers to increase the number of scientists who find earthquake faults from one to four — a staffing number not seen in 20 years.

Brown’s plan calls for $1.49 million in new funding specifically for fault mapping for the next fiscal year. It also asks for $1.3 million in annual dedicated funding, which would be paid for with increased building permit fees.

The slow pace of mapping affects public safety. State law bans new construction on top of fissures because previous quakes have shown that buildings can be severely damaged during violent shaking.

Because the state has not finished placing zones around about 2,000 miles of earthquake faults, many communities across the state have had limited information about the seismic risks of new development. Among them are the San Diego Bay area, the San Gabriel Valley, Hollywood and Los Angeles’ Westside.


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A second ground service employee was arrested Friday in connection with dry ice bombs at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles police said.

Miguel Angel Iniguez, 41, a ground services supervisor, was arrested while working at LAX. The Inglewood resident was being held Friday on $500,000 bail on suspicion of possessing a destructive device linked to the dry ice bombing incidents, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police offered no motive for Iniguez’s suspected involvement.

Iniguez works for Servisair and was the supervisor of Dicarlo Bennett, 28, who was arrested earlier this week and charged in connection with two dry ice bombs that exploded in an employees bathroom in Terminal 2 and in a tarmac area at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Bennett has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Ben Wasserman, said Bennett had removed the dry ice from a cargo bay to protect a dog that was being transported in the area from potentially lethal fumes.


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A baggage handler arrested after dry ice bombs exploded at Los Angeles International Airport planted the devices as a prank, police said Wednesday.

The motive was disclosed a day after the arrest of Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the ground handling company Servisair.

“I think we can safely say he is not a terrorist or an organized crime boss. He did this for his own amusement,” said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department’s counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.

No one was hurt on Sunday when two plastic bottles packed with dry ice exploded in an employee bathroom and on the airport’s tarmac. An unexploded device was found Monday night.

As a result of the incident, airport officials plan to meet with law enforcement authorities to examine potential security enhancements at one of the nation’s busiest airports.

The meeting also will explore the handling and transport of dry ice and other hazardous materials and possible improvements to those procedures.

Arif Alikhan, deputy executive director for Homeland Security and Law Enforcement at Los Angeles World Airports, said such meetings are routine after problems.

“We’ll look at all layers of security existing at the airport, including technology, physical infrastructure, the partnership of tenants, awareness of employees to potential hazardous items like dry ice,” Alikhan said.

Workers at the airport must pass a criminal background check before they can get a security badge for access to restricted areas, LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.

On Tuesday, police arrested Bennett, who was booked for possession of a destructive device near an aircraft and held on $1 million bail.

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Published on Oct 15, 2013

They are on the hunt for a suspect . Problem tho , they say they have NO footage of the HIGH SECURITY Areas !! what the !






Los Angeles  CBS Local


Police Search For Dry Ice Bomb Suspect After 3 More Devices Found At LAX

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Detectives Tuesday continued their efforts to find the suspect wanted for planting dry ice bombs around Los Angeles International Airport.

One dry ice bomb exploded and two plastic bottles containing the dangerous material were found around 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Tom Bradley International Terminal in a restricted area, Los Angeles Police Department Det. Gus Villanueva said.

No one was injured, and no flights were delayed.

Airport police and a bomb squad cleared the items around 9:45 p.m.

Extra police patrols and bomb sniffing dogs remained were at the airport Monday.

“We’re doing what we usually do, but we’re just more exposed today just because of what’s going on,” LAX Airport Police Officer Robert Corchado said.

On Sunday, another dry ice device exploded inside an employee bathroom at LAX’s Terminal 2. No injuries were reported in that incident.

In both instances, the bombs were left in an area of the airport that requires special clearance for access. Officials are investigating whether they may have been set up by an employee.

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511 Tactical


…..  The overarching goals of Urban Shield include striving for the capability to present a multi-layered training exercise to enhance the skills and abilities of regional first responders, as well as those responsible for coordinating and managing large scale events. Urban Shield is implemented to identify and stretch regional resources to their limits, while expanding regional collaboration and building positive relationships. In addition, this exercise provides increased local business and critical infrastructure collaboration. Urban Shield challenges the skills, knowledge and abilities of all who participate. It not only improves regional disaster response capabilities, but provides a platform for national and international first responders, as well as the private sector, to work efficiently and effectively together when critical incidents occur.


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LAX dry ice bombs: 4 devices left in restricted areas, police say




Detectives late Monday were investigating how four dry ice bombs — two of which exploded — were placed in restricted areas at Los Angeles International Airport.

A dry ice bomb exploded Monday about 8:30 p.m. in a section accessible only to employees near the gate of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, law enforcement authorities said.

UPDATE: Focus on security where dry ice bombs planted

Two similar devices were found in the area. All three were bottles with dry ice inside, according to LAX police.

The devices appeared to be outside the terminal near planes, according to television news footage.

No injuries were reported, police said, adding that there was minimal disruption of normal airport activities.

On Sunday night, a dry ice bomb exploded about 7 p.m. in a restroom at Terminal 2, which is home to several international and domestic airlines.

Read More and Watch Video Here


Related Articles

Dry ice bomb at LAX: No threats made before explosion, FBI says



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Los Angeles Times  Local

Killing of chickens in Jewish ritual draws protests in L.A.

Anti-kaparot protest

Protesters debate with a woman, right, outside the Ohel Moshe synagogue on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. Kaparot rituals have been held at the synagogue’s parking lot. (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times / September 10, 2013)

Related photos »

The Jewish ritual of <em>kaparot</em> Photos: The Jewish ritual of kaparot

In a parking lot behind a Pico Boulevard building, inside a makeshift tent made of metal poles and tarps, a man in a white coat and black skullcap grabs a white-feathered hen under the wings and performs an ancient ritual.

He circles the chicken in the air several times and recites a prayer for a woman standing nearby whose aim is to symbolically transfer her sins to the bird. The young man then uses a sharp blade to cut the hen’s throat.

In the days before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, this ritual will be repeated untold times in hastily built plywood rooms and other structures in traditional Orthodox Jewish communities from Pico-Robertson to Brooklyn. Promotional fliers on lampposts in this neighborhood advertise the kaparot service at $18 per chicken or $13 apiece for five or more.

But the practice is increasingly drawing the ire of animal rights activists, and some liberal Jews, who say the custom is inhumane, paganistic and out of step with modern times.

“An animal sacrifice in this day and age?” said Wendie Dox, a Reform Jew and animal rights activist who lives nearby. “That is not OK with me.”

This year, activists have launched one of the largest, most organized efforts ever in the Southland to protest the practice, known variously as kaparot, kapparot or kaparos.

Over the weekend, a coalition of faith leaders and animal rights proponents held a “compassionate kaparot ceremony” during which rabbis used money rather than chickens for the ritual, an accepted alternative. Organizers say that more than 100 people attended and that some stayed to demonstrate late into the night.

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PHOTOS: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Kaparot ritual of swinging chickens over the head

Posted Sep 11, 2013

Swinging chickens over the head is part of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Kaparot ritual in the Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel,Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Observers believe the ritual transfers one’s sins from the past year into the chicken, and is performed before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year which starts at sundown Friday.


An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken over his head as part of the Kaparot ritual in the Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel,Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. Observers believe the ritual transfers one’s sins from the past year into the chicken, and is performed before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year which starts at sundown Friday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)


Ultra-Orthodox Jews hold chickens as part of the Kaparot ritual in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man swings a chicken above his head during the Kaparot ceremony in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, on September 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
An Ultra-orthodox Jewish woman swings a chicken above her head during the Kaparot ceremony in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, on September 11, 2013. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images


The Euless neighborhood is mostly quiet, a sleepy suburb of pleasant ranch-style homes, winding creeks and mossy oaks that looks as if it could have been plucked from any American city. Except, of course, for the ancient gods that populate the home and religion of one of the area’s most controversial residents.

Jose Merced

Brandon Thibodeaux
Jose Merced
Inside Jose Merced’s shrine room, devotees of all ages participate in the cleansing ceremony for Virginia Rosario-Nevarez as part of her seven-day initiation into the Santer&iacute;a priesthood.

Brandon Thibodeaux
Inside Jose Merced’s shrine room, devotees of all ages participate in the cleansing ceremony for Virginia Rosario-Nevarez as part of her seven-day initiation into the Santería priesthood.
The deities, or Orishas, communicate through cowrie shells, telling one woman about her past, present and future in a divination reading.

Brandon Thibodeaux
The deities, or Orishas, communicate through cowrie shells, telling one woman about her past, present and future in a divination reading.
A Santer&iacute;a priest performs the cleansing ceremony on Nevarez (center) before 60 or so deities, which sit in pots on the shelves to her left.

Brandon Thibodeaux
A Santería priest performs the cleansing ceremony on Nevarez (center) before 60 or so deities, which sit in pots on the shelves to her left.
Money is part of the ritual offering to the Orishas during a cowrie shell reading.

Brandon Thibodeaux
Money is part of the ritual offering to the Orishas during a cowrie shell reading.


Web extra: More photos from the feast day at Jose Merced’s home.

But Jose Merced doesn’t shy away from controversy—and he has no plans of doing so on this crisp day in late September. No matter that his neighbors remain uneasy with the ritual singing and drumming that are part of his Santería religion; no matter that they might, as before, call the police if they feared he was engaging in animal sacrifice; no matter that the city of Euless, even after losing a drawn-out lawsuit that tested the boundaries of religious liberty in Texas, is still searching for new ways to shut down Merced’s spiritual practices. For him, the deities who reside in the back room of his house have been silenced long enough.

It’s been nearly three and a half years since he stopped the ritual slaughter of four-legged animals in his home to pursue litigation against the city over his right to do so. With a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his favor and against the city’s health and safety concerns, Merced, a flight attendant, will resume his full religious practices tonight.

As the sacrificial hour approaches, several priests (Santeros) are preparing the 40 assorted goats, roosters, hens, guinea hens, pigeons, quail, turtle and duck who grow noisy and nervous in their cages. Their lives will be taken in an exchange mandated by Olofi, Santería’s supreme god and source of all energy, to heal the broken body and spirit of Virginia Rosario-Nevarez and to initiate her into the Santería priesthood. No medical doctor has been able to alleviate her suffering—the intractable back pain that makes walking unbearable, her debilitating depression and loneliness.

During a spiritual reading, lesser deities have told Merced that for Nevarez to be healed, she must become a priestess. In the initiation ceremony for priesthood, a high priest will sacrifice animals, which must die so she can live a healthy and spiritual life. In a theology similar to Christian grace in which Jesus died to forgive the sins of his followers, the animals will be offered in sacrifice to Olofi and the other deities (Orishas), who will purge her of negative energy as she makes her commitment to them.

Mounted against a wall in the back room shrine in Merced’s house are shelves containing clusters of small ceramic pots, ornately decorated and filled with shells, stones and other artifacts—the physical manifestations of the Orishas that reside in the room. To initiate Nevarez as a priestess, new godly manifestations of the old gods on Merced’s shelf must be born. To make this happen, animal blood will be spilled onto new pots, which the priestess will take home to begin her own shrine with her own newly manifested gods.

Much of theology behind Santería’s rituals remains unknown to Nevarez, though more of its secrets will be revealed to her as she grows in her commitment.

Secrecy defines the Santería religion, which is why estimates, even by its own followers, of the number of its U.S. adherents vary widely between one and five million. The religion’s clandestine nature was also a point of contention during the lawsuit. At trial, the city asked Merced if its health officials could witness a sacrifice to determine if it violated Euless’ ordinances prohibiting animal cruelty, the possession of livestock and the disposal of animal remains, but Merced said only initiated priests were permitted to see one. The exclusion of outsiders stems from the long history of persecution Santería’s followers suffered. Santería came to Cuba from West Africa during the slave trade centuries ago, a peculiar melding of the Yoruba religious traditions of captured slaves and the Catholicism of their masters. Slaves were forbidden from practicing their indigenous beliefs, so they hid that practice from their oppressors, adopting the names of Catholic saints for their Orishas (Saint Peter for Ogun, for example) whose divine intervention they could call upon when seeking protection, health and wisdom.

But tonight, Merced has had enough of secrecy. The litigation has taken a toll on his physical appearance. He looks heavier, grayer, worn out. The national media generated by the case, however, has left him more comfortable with the presence of strangers in his house, even with local news trucks parked in his front yard. And this evening Merced is allowing his first nonbeliever to witness an animal sacrifice.

“I’m going to let her see one and that’s it,” he says, standing in front of a long, flowing curtain concealing the entrance to his shrine. He is unwilling to listen to any who oppose the outsider observing the ceremony. Some in the shrine raise their eyebrows but return to the task at hand. They figure Merced’s deities are in control today. If he’s allowing the Orishas to be seen by a nonbeliever, then the gods must be OK with it.

Merced has recently disregarded other premonitions of danger. Three days earlier in his home, he held a séance for Nevarez in preparation for her priestly initiation. Ten members, all wearing white, gathered inside his converted garage, now a spare kitchen. On top of a white tablecloth sat a crucifix, prayer books, pencils, paper and a fishbowl of water—there to cleanse the spirits from negative to positive. Hanging on the wall were decorative hollowed-out gourds, painted in primary colors to represent a handful of the 60 or so Orishas in Santería. In one corner sat a life-size female black doll dressed in a flowing skirt and bandanna, a half-empty bottle of rum and lighted candles placed nearby.

One of the Santeros at the table knotted his face, his expression troubled. He began to grunt and take short breathes, acting possessed by the spirit, which came alive through him and asked for some rum. A woman handed him a gourd brimming with white Bacardi. As he gulped the rum, he walked hastily toward Merced.

This was a negative spirit, and it had a message: It would be best for Merced to leave the area or send everybody away from his home and remain alone.

Merced folded his arms defensively across his chest. Time and again, throughout his legal troubles, lawyers, neighbors, friends and even Santeros had proposed he do the same. Why didn’t he just leave Euless? Worship somewhere else? Why come out and create so much controversy when he could just keep things secret and live in peace like the others? To Merced, this spirit represented an insult to everything he had accomplished.

“How dare you?” accused Merced, reminding the spirit that it was “immaterial”—and in Merced’s house. “I don’t have to go anywhere. I’m going to keep up the fight.”


Jose Merced never intended to be the face of Santería in North Texas, although he might argue that it was his fate.

He grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and recalls his childhood as happy and stable—that is, until his father left the family. Merced, at 12, felt abandoned and grew physically ill, developing a sharp, chronic pain in his stomach and intestines. A medical doctor suggested exploratory surgery, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it.

She had grown up in a home where regular séances took place between family members. When pregnant with Jose, a stranger stopped her in a shoe store and told her she would give birth to a male child on April 20 who would possess the gift of spirituality. Merced was born on April 19 and early on became intrigued with the spiritual realm.

After Merced became ill, he asked his mother to bring him to a woman his mother had been seeing for private spiritual readings. Even without him mentioning it, the woman told him about his intestinal pains and his nightmares. Hoping she could cure him, Merced began attending weekly séances at her home. Many of those attending wore colorful, beaded necklaces, and he asked the woman how he could get some. She told him those who wore the necklaces were followers of Santería, and he could only get them when he needed them, not when he wanted them. A year and a half later, she did a reading for him with the deities of Santería and told him it was time.

At 14, he donned his collares—necklaces that represented the protection granted by the Orishas. For a short while, Merced, who weighed 210 pounds, began to feel better, but it didn’t last. “Spirits also can bother you when you’re not knowing or understanding what it is you come in life to do,” he now explains.

The woman became his godmother in Santería, and she continued to treat him with herbal potions and spiritual readings. Over the next 18 months, he lost 60 pounds and had good months as well as bad.

Finally, Merced says that the Orishas spoke through the woman and told her that the only way to make his pain disappear was to get initiated as a priest. Merced was ready, but the ceremony was expensive, $3,000, and he didn’t have enough money. For a year after graduating high school, Merced saved up, working as a clerk for the Puerto Rico Department of Education in San Juan. By early 1979, with his mother’s help, he had saved enough money, though he still had no idea what to expect.

He had helped with other initiations at his godmother’s house but was never allowed inside the shrine-room. “I saw the animals going in alive and coming out dead,” Merced recalls. But he had no idea why. He helped by cleaning or cutting up the meat or plucking chicken feathers. Sometimes he would ask the people outside the room what was happening inside. “And when you asked something, all they answered was, ‘It is a secret.’ If you’re not crowned [a priest], you’re not supposed to know. So when I went in to my ceremony, I didn’t have a clue.”

On the day of his initiation, he was called inside the shrine and told to keep his eyes closed. Four hours later, he was dressed in regal-looking robes, his head completely shaven. Later he was told he had been possessed by his Orisha, but he remembered nothing.

After the crowning ceremony, it was time for the animal sacrifice. As the animals were brought in, he was told to touch his head to the animal’s head and its hooves to other areas of his body. The animal was absorbing his negativity. He had to chew pieces of coconut, swallowing the juice but spitting the coconut meat into the animal’s ear.

He would later learn that this was necessary for the “the exchange ceremony,” which came next. The pieces of coconut represented Merced’s message—his thoughts, feelings, needs—which were transferred to the goat for direct passage to Olofi. His physical contact with the animal was also symbolic of his commitment to God. As soon as the animal’s blood was spilled, Merced’s negativity, which had been absorbed by the goat, was released. The purified blood then spilled into the pots.

Shortly after the initiation, he says his stomach pains subsided. “I never, ever have felt again the same pain that I used to feel before,” he says.

Although he had little contact with his father, a nonbeliever, he invited him to his divination readings two days later. His father also visited him at his mother’s house immediately after the seven-day ceremony concluded. Merced was wearing all-white, his head shaved clean, and his father insisted this was all his mother’s doing—she was the one who had become a priestess a year earlier. His father demanded he end these religious practices and join the National Guard like he had. Merced told him, no: He had become a priest for health reasons, and he refused to let him shake his faith, particularly after his father had been so uninvolved in his life for so long.

If his father had learned anything from the divination readings, he would know what the Orishas had in store for his son. The priest had told him he would travel the world. He told him he would become a priest who would initiate others. And he told him that people would have reason to remember his name.


The first year of his priesthood was a difficult one. At the department of education, many of his co-workers would shoot him strange, even hostile glances when he wore his necklace and dressed in the all-white attire his religion required him to wear in the year following his intiation.

In 1989, he learned about a job opening with a commercial airline, and the next year he began to work for the company in Dallas. The work was good, but his spiritual life suffered.

He didn’t know any Santeros here and removed his necklaces to avoid drawing attention to himself. “I didn’t want people to know [about my religion],” Merced says. “That’s hiding. And I lived hiding for a long, long time.”

A closet in his apartment in Euless served as the shrine for his Orishas, which he had brought in cloth bags when he first traveled from Puerto Rico to Dallas.

A year after the move, he bought his first home and dedicated an entire room to his deities. Using the Yellow Pages, he located a botanica (a spiritual supply store) on West Jefferson and felt brave enough to introduce himself as a Santero. Here he would find others who shared his beliefs.

Over the years, he would become godfather to at least 500 followers and initiate at least 17 priests. As these new priests went out into the community and gave out necklaces to their own godchildren, Merced’s own house grew. He estimates that today there are close to 1,000 believers in his Santería community.

As Merced grew more confident in his job and in himself, he stopped hiding his religion to outsiders and would tell them about it when asked. He took the same approach in his personal life. And in 2002, when his boyfriend, Michael, decided to take his last name, their commitment to each other seemed a natural progression. “This is me,” Jose says. “And everyone will accept me for what I am.”

In 2002 Merced moved into the house he currently owns in Euless, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he started attracting the attention of the authorities. On September 4, Euless police and animal control officials showed up unannounced at his home. An anonymous caller had complained that goats were being illegally slaughtered in his backyard. When the authorities arrived, Merced was in the middle of a sacrificial ceremony inside his shrine. The police told him to stop—that if he didn’t they would fine him or arrest him. But the animal control officer intervened: Merced was allowed to continue the ritual and would not be arrested, at least not that day.

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Great Cuba documentary


Uploaded on May 15, 2007

Scenes from 2005’s “Havana Centro” by Paul Johnson. Rare scenes of a Santeria ritual taking place in Havana, Cuba


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The Young Turks The Young Turks

Published on Aug 20, 2013

“Journalist Michael Hastings, who was killed in a fiery Los Angeles crash in June, died of “traumatic injuries” as a result of the accident and had traces of drugs in his system, Los Angeles coroner’s officials said Tuesday.

Hastings, 33, died June 18 in a single-vehicle accident. His car burst into flames and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Coroner’s officials said Hastings had traces of amphetamine in his system, consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death, as well as marijuana. Neither were considered a factor in the crash, according to toxicology reports.”* The Young Turks hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down.


Coroner, family link Michael Hastings to drug use at time of death

Michael Hastings

LAPD officers examine the scene of a car crash that killed journalist Michael Hastings, shown at right. (Los Angeles Times / Associated Press / June 17, 2013)

Journalist Michael Hastings, who was killed in a fiery Los Angeles crash in June, died of “traumatic injuries” as a result of the accident and had traces of drugs in his system, Los Angeles coroner’s officials said Tuesday.

Hastings, 33, died June 18 in a single-vehicle accident. His car burst into flames and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Coroner’s officials said Hastings had traces of amphetamine in his system, consistent with possible intake of methamphetamine many hours before death,  as well as marijuana. Neither were considered a factor in the crash, according to toxicology reports.

DOCUMENT: Read the autopsy report

The cause of death was massive blunt force trauma consistent with a high-speed crash. He likely died within seconds, the report said.

Hastings had arrived in Los Angeles from New York the day before the accident, with his brother scheduled to arrive later the day of the crash “as his family was attempting to get [Hastings] to go to detox,” the report stated.

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In April, a man named Erin Walker Markland drove off a mountain road near Santa Cruz and was killed. The woman who had planned to marry him, Jordanna Thigpen, was devastated. For comfort, she turned to a man who had taken up residence next door. He had been through something similar — years before, his fiancée had been killed.

Michael Hastings' publicity photo shows him as a battle-hardened war correspondent.

Michael Hastings’ publicity photo shows him as a battle-hardened war correspondent.
Hastings recently had lost weight and went clean-shaven. In March, he donned a hoodie for an appearance on Current TV.

Hastings recently had lost weight and went clean-shaven. In March, he donned a hoodie for an appearance on Current TV.
Memorial on Highland Avenue for Michael Hastings.

Memorial on Highland Avenue for Michael Hastings.
Hastings' legacy has been hotly contested. This sign was removed several times.

Hastings’ legacy has been hotly contested. This sign was removed several times.

“He was the only person in my life who understood what I was going through,” she says.

The landlord they both rented from had encouraged her to meet him, saying he was a writer. In their initial conversations, he was unusually modest. It was only when she Googled his name — Michael Hastings — that she learned he was a famous war correspondent.

In February, Hastings had rented a one-bedroom apartment with a gorgeous view overlooking Hollywood. The landlord allowed him to use another unit, the one below Thigpen’s, to write.

Often, when Hastings was done for the day, he would visit Thigpen. He would talk passionately about the stories he was working on. They talked about other things in the news, about stories she thought he should pursue, and about their shared sense of grief.

“We both suffered the same thing, which was depression,” she says.

Hastings was intensely interested in government surveillance of journalists. In May, the story broke about the Department of Justice obtaining the phone records of Associated Press reporters. A couple weeks later, Edward Snowden‘s revelations about the National Security Agency‘s massive surveillance program became public. Hastings was convinced he was a target.

His behavior grew increasingly erratic. Helicopters often circle over the hills, but Hastings believed there were more of them around whenever he was at home, keeping an eye on him. He came to believe his Mercedes was being tampered with. “Nothing I could say could console him,” Thigpen says.

One night in June, he came to Thigpen’s apartment after midnight and urgently asked to borrow her Volvo. He said he was afraid to drive his own car. She declined, telling him her car was having mechanical problems.

“He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” she says.

The next day, around 11:15 a.m., she got a call from her landlord, who told her Hastings had died early that morning. His car had crashed into a palm tree at 75 mph and exploded in a ball of fire.

“I burst into tears,” Thigpen says. “I couldn’t believe it had happened again.”

See also: New Surveillance Video Shows Fiery Crash

Michael Hastings was just 33 when he died, but he left behind a remarkable legacy. In tributes across the Internet, he was remembered as one of the best journalists of his generation.

He was most famous for “The Runaway General,” the Rolling Stone piece that ended the career of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the Afghanistan war. Hastings had built a reputation as a fearless disrupter of the cozy ways of Washington, gleefully calling bullshit on government hacks and colleagues alike. He was loved and admired, hated and feared.

The day before he died, he’d warned colleagues in an email that he was being investigated by the FBI. He also said he was onto a “big story,” and would be going off the radar. Almost inevitably, his death — in a fiery, single-car crash, at 4:20 a.m. on June 18 — resulted in a swarm of conspiracy theories.

Amateur forensic examinations have proliferated online. A common refrain is, “A car just doesn’t blow up like that.” Some argue that he was murdered by the CIA, or the NSA, or the Pentagon.

Hastings’ family and the Los Angeles Police Department both have dismissed the conspiracies. LAPD also has ruled out suicide. “My gut is that this was really a tragic accident,” his widow, Elise Jordan, told CNN.

Interviews with friends as well as the coroner’s report suggest that Hastings’ mental health was deteriorating. As a young man, he’d abused drugs and alcohol and received a possible diagnosis of manic depression. Now, after a long period of sobriety, he had recently begun smoking pot to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder — the product of years of covering combat.

His family was concerned. In the days leading up to his death, one of his brothers visited L.A. in an attempt to get Hastings into rehab; he later told investigators he feared more serious drug use.

Hastings had long been both brilliant and troubled. Friends recall him as a captivating storyteller. “It was thrilling to have a conversation, because you never knew where it might end up,” says Alyona Minkovski, a close friend. “Everybody was drawn to him.”

He was charming; he also could be an asshole. That was all part of his public persona. But he also had a darker side, which he tended to keep hidden.

“[S]elf-destruction does haunt me,” he wrote, on the road to Baghdad. “[T]here was a long time in my life where I thought the only thing to do with myself was to destroy it.”

Hastings was born in Malone, N.Y., in 1980. The family moved to Montreal when he was 11. As a teenager at Lower Canada College, a private prep school, Hastings got hooked on the gonzo writings of Hunter S. Thompson. He wrote a column for his school paper, called “Fear and Loathing at L.C.C.”

Hastings emulated Thompson’s penchant for aggravating authority. After a move to Vermont, he and his brother Jeff were enrolled at Rice Memorial High School, a Catholic school, where they showed up the first day with hair dyed red and green.

“That lasted for a day,” says Mike Pearo, Hastings’ history teacher there. “Rice stresses its dress code, and ‘oddball’ behavior isn’t tolerated.”

Hastings had a sharp tongue, and was constantly asking questions in class. “He would say what he was thinking,” Pearo says, “sometimes not always a good thing.”

In the school paper, Hastings compared the principal to Jabba the Hut. He ran for class president on an anti-administration platform. (He won.) And he was suspended and removed from the student council when he used the word “shagadelic” in the morning announcements.

As he dug into the work of Hunter Thompson and the Beat writers, he nurtured an appetite for drugs.

“I brilliantly deduced that to be a great writer, you had to ingest great amounts of illegal substances,” he told True/Slant many years later.

His earliest reported drug use was at the age of 15 — two tabs of acid and a bag of mushrooms at a warehouse in Montreal. By 19, when he was a freshman at Connecticut College, he had a serious problem.

“When I was a teenager, I used to snort cocaine and smoke crack and party all night and booze for months, because I wanted to know what it was like to hit those highs and to feel those highs when they all came crashing down,” he wrote in his memoir, I Lost My Love in Baghdad.

Though he alluded to this period in his life several times in his writing, he never told the full story from beginning to end. In various places, Hastings referred to a drunken car wreck, suspension from college, a few days in jail, a restraining order, an aborted enlistment in the Marines and, finally, rehab.

See also: Michael Hastings’ Coroner’s Report Reveals Likely Meth, Marijuana Use

The underlying reasons for Hastings’ behavior aren’t entirely clear. His family told investigators that, at one point, he was thought to suffer from bipolar disorder, or manic depression. However, they later concluded that his behavioral issues stemmed not from a mood disorder but from misuse of Ritalin. He also seems to have been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac. (He complained that it caused mania.)

In general, he resisted psychiatric explanations. “He didn’t understand how much of his problems were real, and how much were attributed by adults who say, ‘This is the problem with you,’ ” Thigpen says.

Chastened and clean, Hastings enrolled at NYU in 2000 and graduated in 2002. An unpaid summer internship at Newsweek set him on the path to a writing career.

If he never wrote fully about his drug experience, it may have been because he was still trying to get perspective on it.

“It took me years of sobriety before I had a clue of what actually happened while I was all messed up,” he wrote in True/Slant, “and before I could truly empathize with my family for all the shit I had [put] them through.”

In his 20s, Hastings stayed clean and channeled his manic energies into journalism. Writer Rachel Sklar met him, and dated him for a few months, when he was living in New York and working for Newsweek. She remembers his apartment overflowing with books — Hemingway, Mailer, Roth, A.J. Liebling and many volumes on war.

“He was voraciously learning the craft,” Sklar says. “He was ambitious. He was eager. He was really just 100 percent into it.”

Two war books were especially influential: Michael Herr‘s Dispatches and Chris HedgesWar Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. The latter famously equates war with a highly addictive drug — and Hastings felt himself getting sucked in.

In 2005, he prevailed on his editors to send him to Iraq. At 25, he was one of the youngest foreign correspondents in Baghdad. He would spend much of the next five years in war zones.

According to Lucian Read, the photographer who partnered with Hastings for much of that time, the writer brought an unusual affinity for troops. His brother was in the Army, and Hastings was close in age to most of the soldiers. He tended to adopt a soldier’s-eye view of authority.

“His skepticism ran a lot deeper,” Read says. “He was skeptical of the generals, the plans, the pronouncements, spokespeople — all the happy talk.”

Hastings lived in the Green Zone, went on embeds and broke stories. His routine was shaped by the constant threat of violence. And though he knew better than to admit it too openly, it was thrilling. He came to think of himself in the tradition of war correspondents hooked on the adrenaline of battle.

“If I’m going to be completely honest,” he wrote in his memoir, “I have to admit that the empty prestige and the stupid glory — yes, the horrible rush, the deadly sense of importance that war brings to life — are hard illusions to shake off. Look at me, a war correspondent. … ”

The memoir centers on his relationship with Andi Parhamovich, an Air America spokeswoman whom he met shortly before going abroad. For the first year, it was a long-distance relationship. But in the fall of 2006, she got a job with a non-governmental organization that allowed her to follow him to Baghdad.

She was killed when her convoy was ambushed in January 2007.

“It’s a horrible situation, mind-numbingly horrible,” Hastings wrote. “But you try to do what you can.”

What he could do was write. He returned home to Vermont and wrote the first draft of his memoir in three weeks. It was his way of processing the trauma. “It was either write or die for me,” he wrote.

In April, he returned to Baghdad — and had to confront his reasons for doing so.

“Was part of me looking to get killed, too?”

In recent years, psychiatrists have begun to examine the emotional toll of reporting on war, recasting its romantic aura with terms like “anxiety disorders” and “post-traumatic stress.”

In 2002, Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein surveyed war correspondents and found that 29 percent developed PTSD after exposure to combat — similar to rates among service members. Another 21 percent suffered from depression, and 14 percent reported substance abuse.

“Lots of journalists are affected, both from being bystanders to grief and from being in harm’s way,” says Dr. Elana Newman, a psychologist at the University of Tulsa, who has studied the subject. “And the more you see, the worse it is.”

War journalists have begun to try to raise awareness by speaking out about their own mental health. Perhaps the most high-profile example is Michael Ware, a CNN and Time correspondent who spent six straight years in Baghdad.

Ware, who was nearly killed several times over, has been open about his own addiction to combat. In his time in Iraq, he was shot at, kidnapped three times and twice nearly executed.

“I’ve been through the wringer,” he says by Skype from his home in Australia. Now retired from combat coverage, he says it took years to get over his experience.

“I had a very dark few years coming out of Iraq,” he says. For a while, he was suicidal. “I know what it’s like to battle these things on your own. I went very close to topping myself.”

Phillip Robertson, a freelance correspondent who covered the war for Salon.com, also has spoken about the psychological toll.

“Repeated exposure to combat has the weird side effect of taking any fissure in your mind already and widening it,” Robertson says, speaking via Skype from the Syrian border. “You subject yourself to things that are not right. There is no mechanism to support people who do the work we do. … War draws fucked-up people to it, and it doesn’t make them get better.”

Hastings never identified himself in his writing as someone suffering from PTSD. The closest he came to such an admission was in May, when he retweeted an article about using pot to treat PTSD. In fact, according to the coroner’s report, that is exactly what he was doing.

Still, PTSD was not something he discussed even with his close friends. Matt Farwell, a freelance writer and Army veteran, worked with Hastings on two stories for Rolling Stone. The second involved a CIA station chief with PTSD, but even then Hastings did not open up on the subject, Farwell says.

The death of Hastings’ fiancée clearly had a traumatic effect on him. When asked a few years later on C-SPAN what it was like writing the memoir, he answered, “I wrote it in — I was so screwed up when I wrote that book.”

About six months after his fiancée was killed, Hastings was assigned to cover the 2008 presidential election. Peter Goldman, the senior Newsweek editor heading up the project, wrote in a tribute about meeting his eyes for the first time.

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Published on May 20, 2013

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne have been farming their yard in Los Angeles for over a decade. In addition to a mini orchard and extensive veggie garden, they have all the instruments of an urban homestead: chickens, bees, rainwater capture, DIY greywater, solar fruit preserver, humanure toilet, rocket stove, adobe oven. But they don’t like to talk about sustainability of self-sufficiency, instead they prefer the term self-reliance.

“I don’t like the goal of self-sufficiency, I think it’s a fool’s errand to chase that goal,” explains Knutzen. “I think we live in communities, human beings are meant to live, and trade and work together. I think self-reliance is okay, in other words, knowing how to do things.”

Knutzen and Coyne share their tinkering, DIY and small scale urban agriculture experiments on their blog Root Simple and in their books “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City” and “Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post Consumer World”. They believe in the value of shop classes and old-school home economics (back when you learned how to make things, not shop for things).

For the couple, their true goal with all of this self-reliance is freedom to live as they please. By growing their own and canning, pickling, preserving, freezing and baking their own breads and beans, they live frugally. They also only own one car (plus a cargo bike), one cellphone and no tv. “I think a lot of it has to do with our overdriving ambition to be free,” explains Coyne, “makes being cheap fun, because it means you can be free”.

Root Simple: http://www.rootsimple.com/

Original story: http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/…

*Cameraman Johnny Sanphillippo also films for the site Strong Towns: http://www.strongtowns.org/

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Story Leak.com

Anthony Gucciardi

DHS ‘Constitution Free’ Zones Inside US Ignored By Media

August 5th, 2013
Updated 08/05/2013 at 12:00 pm

In what should be front page news blasted out nationwide as a breaking news alert, the DHS has openly established extensive ‘Constitution free zones’ in which your Fourth Amendment does not exist. 

It’s not ‘conspiracy’ and it’s not fraud, the DHS has literally created an imaginary ‘border’ within the United States that engulfs 100 miles from every single end of the nation. Within this fabricated ‘border’, the DHS can search your electronic belongings for no reason. We’re talking about no suspicion, no reasonable cause, nothing. No reason whatsoever is required under their own regulations. The DHS is now above the Constitution under their own rules, and even Wired magazine authors were amazed at the level of pure tyranny going on here.

This ‘border’ even includes where the US land meets oceans in addition to legitimate borders with Mexico and Canada. As a result, you have over 197 million citizens suffocated in these 100 mile ‘border zones’ that include major cities like New York City, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Checkout the graphic below for a visual representation, with the orange area representing the Constitution free zone as designated by the DHS:

An ACLU image showing 'Constitution free border zones'.

What’s even more amazing, is that this has been going on since 2008. That’s about 5 years of absolute unconstitutional abuse of power by the Department of Homeland Security that the media fails to even document. That’s 197 million citizens living without a Constitution as far as the DHS is concerned, and apparently the Department of Justice (DOJ) must be pretty content too. Amazingly, no one has challenged this besides the ACLU, which was contacted following the case of a man who was actually detained within the 100 mile ‘border’ area.

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