Several homes were destroyed in Bel-Air on Wednesday as a wind-driven wildfire triggered mandatory evacuations in one of Los Angeles’ most exclusive neighborhoods.
The fire prompted evacuations in a large swath of the hillside enclave, which taken with other fires around the region added to a total of more than 100,000 people forced from their homes.
Flames from a 45,500-acre-wildfire have been spreading randomly from strong winds leaving some homes burned to the ground and other homes untouched
After several tense hours, firefighters appeared to be getting a handle on the fire, which burned in the same area as the destructive 1961 Bel-Air fire. That blaze destroyed more than 500 homes and prompted some of the city’s toughest fire safety regulations.
Wednesday’s fire erupted about 4:50 a.m. in the brush next to the northbound 405 Freeway, near Mulholland Drive. Flames fanned by 25 mph winds quickly traveled east into Bel-Air and scorched 475 acres and destroyed four homes by the afternoon, officials said. An additional 11 homes were damaged and the fire was 5% contained by 3 p.m., officials said.
“It’s been years since anything here has burned at all,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Cody Weireter. “You’ve got heavy, heavy brush, you’ve got the dryness — obviously, we haven’t had any rain at all. A lot of the fire is topography-driven, which already becomes dangerous. The wind is going to increase that twofold.”
More than 350 firefighters, 52 engines and six fixed-wing aircraft had low temperatures and humidity on their side as they battled the blaze from the north, west and east in high winds. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning.
“These are days that break your heart,” Garcetti said. “These are also days that show the resilience of our city.”
After the fire erupted, authorities completely shut down the 405 Freeway between the 10 and the 101 freeways, even as they ordered evacuations in a 3.2-square-mile zone stretching from Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard, and from Roscomare Road on the east to the 405 Freeway on the west.
The freeway has since reopened, though the Moraga Drive, Getty Center Drive and Skirball Center Drive offramps from the northbound 405 remained closed, the California Highway Patrol said about 5 p.m.
Jackson Rogow, 24, woke up at 6 a.m. to the smell of smoke and the wail of sirens. He ran outside in his boxer shorts and saw his neighbors on Bellagio Road standing in the street and packing their cars. The moon was blood red, he said.
He prepared to leave with his girlfriend, the couple’s cat, Zeppelin, and a bag of kitty litter. His girlfriend found a stack of photographs of her late father. Rogow waved to a truck as it whizzed by around 7 a.m. He shouted, “Should I leave?” A firefighter gave him a thumbs-up, he said, but he wasn’t sure what that meant.
By 8:30 a.m., Rogow received a phone alert to evacuate. But as those in the evacuation zone tried to flee, some were trapped in a traffic on narrow, winding roads.
Drivers seeking alternate routes between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside are getting stuck in traffic on winding, hilly streets in the fire area, which could pose a danger to themselves and to firefighters, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said.
“It’s getting all jammed up in there,” he said. “They’re deep into the evacuation area.”
Rubenstein urged drivers to stay away from the area bounded by the mandatory evacuation order.
Elementary and college students alike in Santa Monica, Malibu and parts of West L.A. were told to stay home Wednesday. UCLA canceled classes as the campus and parts of Westwood lost power, forcing the university to rely on its backup sources for about an hour until power was restored.
Among the properties threatened was publishing billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s 16-acre Moraga Vineyards estate, which is on Moraga Drive.
A pocket of the vineyard on top of a hill in the estate was smoking and burning, firefighters said Wednesday afternoon. At 1:45 p.m., helicopters were dropping water onto the vineyard. No structure on Murdoch’s property was on fire, authorities said.
Murdoch released a statement Wednesday saying television footage showed there may be damage to some buildings in the upper vineyard area, but the house and the winery appear to be intact.
“The situation at Moraga Bel Air is very fluid at the moment,” he said in the statement. “We are monitoring the situation as closely as we can and are grateful to the efforts of all the first responders. Some of our neighbors have suffered heavy losses and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.”
Firetrucks having to navigate the narrow lanes on the block focused their efforts up the street earlier in the day, where thick brush was being quickly consumed by flames.
In the 1200 block of Moraga Drive around 10:45 a.m., a firefighter helped a woman place her black suitcase inside her Bentley. She drove away quickly, leaving her yellow Spanish-style house surrounded by flames.
Thick, green brush sizzled about 100 feet away on the hill behind the yellow house, as the flames grew larger.
“Our greatest threat is, and will always continue to be, the wind,” Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said during a 9:30 a.m. news conference.
Other fires in Southern California have stretched resources thin. The LAFD has scaled back the number of employees and engines responding to 911 calls in other areas of the city, Terrazas said.
National Weather Service forecasts call for continued windy conditions through Thursday at least.
Sweet said winds are expected to gust to 40 to 45 mph in coastal areas, 50 to 60 mph in the valleys, and as high as 70 mph in the mountains Wednesday night and Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet.
Officials also urged residents west of the fire — bounded by Mulholland, Sunset, the 405 and Mandeville Canyon Road — to be ready to leave, although that area is not under an evacuation order. As of 11 a.m., the fire remained east of the 405 Freeway.
“We are losing some property and that is tragic, but the most important thing is peoples’ lives,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the area that is burning. No injuries or deaths were reported as of 11 a.m.
The following recreation centers have been opened as evacuation sites: Delano, Balboa, Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks, Westwood and Cheviot Hills.
Residents near Bel Terrace and North Sepulveda Boulevard raced outside Wednesday morning as flames encroached on their homes.
Beverly Freeman, 83, pulled out of her driveway ahead of the flames just before 7 a.m. She didn’t take any belongings with her.
As Freeman drove away from the two-story gray house that her husband built for her three decades ago, she was not sure whether she would have a home to return to.
“I was going to die in this house,” she said as tears came to her eyes, ash and smoke swirling in the air. “The flames have never come so close.”
Before Rogow left his home, he remembered a conversation he’d had with his neighbor, who had temporarily left the state for cancer treatment. Before she left, Rogow asked her: “If your house is burning down, what do I grab?”
Her medals, she said. She had more than three dozen, from marathons, half-marathons and 5-kilometer races at Disneyworld. So Rogow broke a window, jumped inside and grabbed them.
Source: L. A. Times
Apple Confirms it has Acquired Music Recognition App Shazam
Apple confirmed Shazam acquistion on Monday. Image Source: Peter Kotoff/Shutterstock
Apple on Monday confirmed its acquisition of music recognition app Shazam, saying it’s “thrilled” to be gaining one of the consistently most popular apps in its App Store.
This news had previously been reported by TechCrunch, which had one source claiming the sale price was around $400 million—far less than Shazam’s $1 billion valuation at its last round of funding.
“Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users,” the company said in a statement. “We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement
Shazam is arguably best known for its music recognition technology; tap the “Shazam” button in the app for smartphones and it will usually identify whatever song it hears after just a few seconds. Shazam has become so popular that there’s even a network TV game show called Beat Shazam hosted by Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx. In it, contestants must guess songs faster than Shazam can.
Shazam has also invested in second-screen TV viewing features, image recognition, and augmented reality services and products. Shazam’s talent and technology could be used in several of Apple’s products and initiatives, including Apple Music, Siri, and augmented reality.
Shazam already integrates with Siri. You can ask Siri “what song is this” while a song is playing externally, and, after a long pause, it will provide you with the name and artist, along with a “buy” button for Apple Music/iTunes gussied up with Shazam logo. Currently, the Shazam app allows you to add a song to your Spotify playlist after identifying it, regardless of whether you’re using an Apple or Android phone. We don’t know yet what, if anything, will happen to that feature because of the Apple purchase.
The acquisition is probably about much more than the widely known music recognition feature. Shazam has been developing augmented reality features that allow brands to serve up customized ads and transaction opportunities to users who use the app on visual or aural cues around them. Apple’s Tim Cook has made it abundantly clear that he expects augmented reality to be one of Apple’s biggest areas of growth and investment. Much of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X’s hardware and software is built with AR specifically in mind, and Apple is even rumored to be working on a pair of AR goggles, though it will likely be a while before we see those in the market, if we do at all.
Apple generally does not spell out the details of how it plans to use acquisitions, but there are a number of areas where Shazam’s current business overlaps with that of Apple’s, making for an interesting range of possibilities for where and how the two will work together.
Shazam’s core business is in music recognition: people use its app to capture a clip of music that is playing, and then it matches that against its large database to tell you what you are listening to, a business that has brought the company over 1 billion downloads of its app to date.
Over the years Shazam has augmented this with a number of other services: it sends users through to other sites to download and listen to the music at their leisure; it provides more information to users about the music and the artists behind it; it keeps charts of popular music based on the clips that it hears and that people want to identify. It’s also branched out into more marketing services based on visual recognition — essentially augmented reality plays where users can capture snaps of images that lead them to more content from a brand or another organization.
Through all of this, Shazam has developed some interesting partnerships, specifically with Apple and Spotify (who together get around 1 million referrals each month via Shazam), and Snapchat, which currently has an integration with Shazam where Snapchat users can “recognize music, engage with Shazam content, and send their music and artist discoveries as Snaps to their friends.” It is no surprise that these are also the three names that we heard were all approached and discussed an acquisition of the startup.
Shazam provided the following statement to TechCrunch on the acquisition.
“We are excited to announce that Shazam has entered into an agreement to become part of Apple. Shazam is one of the highest rated apps in the world and loved by hundreds of millions of users and we can’t imagine a better home for Shazam to enable us to continue innovating and delivering magic for our users.”
Notably, Shazam had a post-money valuation in its last round of over $1 billion — a far cry from the roughly $400 million that is being paid by Apple. The reason for this, one source says, is that for all of Shazam’s popularity and move into revenue-generating areas like marketing, the company never really found a solid business model for the long-term future.
“Shazam should have moved into streaming music years ago,” the source said, “which is one reason why the Apple deal makes so much sense.” Spotify, as a point of comparison, has healthy recurring revenues from subscriptions and Apple Music has both subscriptions and downloads — not to mention the wider use of Apple Music and the ecosystem pull it gives Apple for its wider hardware business. That hints at some interesting integrations coming up.
A Backstory on the Acquisition:
Apple and Shazam have had a friendly relationship for years, but the catalyst was that pending bid from Snap. As Recode first reported, the Snapchat parent had entertained buying the company.
It turns out that the conversations with Snap began about six months ago, after advisor Goldman Sachs drummed up interest. Snap was open to acquisition talks because its integration with Shazam’s music recognition technology had been going well.
Snap has had a volatile time on the stock market since it went public in March, and so Shazam was getting mixed messages about how much the social media platform would be willing to pay.
Shazam’s conversations with Apple began the following month, and they became exclusive about two months ago. From what we understand, the Spotify talks were earlier and couldn’t progress because of the price, and likely also the fact that Spotify, which is gearing up for a public listing, has a lot on its plate right now.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, saw an opportunity for Shazam to help build out its music business. Since the days of the iPod, music has long been a priority for the company. Lately, it’s been focused on enhancing its Spotify competitor, Apple Music.
Cue believes that Shazam could help improve its offering and liked that the app had moved beyond music discovery, building out artist pages and other music-related content.
Shazam already integrates with Apple Music, referring many of its 100 million users to play songs on its platform. It also lets users buy the music directly via iTunes.
Techcrunch and Apple Music contributed to this report.
LeNora Millen 12-11-17
Port Authority Explosion: Suspect in Custody After ‘Attempted Terrorist Attack’
Mayor Bill de Blasio, FDNY update media on explosion in East Village, New York (Photo Credit: BreakingNews.com)
One male suspect has been taken into custody after an explosion earlier Monday morning at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, according to the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Authorities said a low-tech device was detonated in the New York City subway in an incident that the mayor called an “attempted terrorist attack.” The blast resulted in serious injuries to the suspect and minor injuries to at least three others, according to reports at a morning news conference.
The suspect, who was identified as Akayed Ullah, reportedly sustained burns and lacerations to his hands and abdomen. Police said the suspect Ullah was taken to Bellevue Hospital for treatment and then taken into custody.
Three other people also suffered minor injuries caused by being in the vicinity of the explosion, including ringing in the ears and headaches, police said.
The blast was reported in Midtown Manhattan in the area of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., occurring in an underground passageway at the Port Authority subway station, at 42nd Street between 7th and 8th avenues, authorities said.
The suspect was reportedly walking eastbound in the passageway at the time, during what would have been peak morning commute hours.
“When we hear of an attack in the subways, it’s incredibly unsettling,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “And let’s also be clear, this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) described the bomb as “an effectively low-tech device” and said he was grateful the only injuries were minor.
“The first news this morning was obviously very frightening and disturbing,” Cuomo said. “When you hear about a bomb in the subway station, it is in many ways one of our worst nightmares. The reality turns out to be better than the initial expectation and fear.”
The NYPD is investigating the explosion as a possible terrorism incident, according to law enforcement officials.
The suspect was armed with a homemade explosive device described by authorities as a pipe bomb of some kind. Investigators are trying to determine if the device may have detonated prematurely, or partially, when it exploded inside a subway station at 8th Avenue and 42nd street, officials said. The suspect, who was injured in the explosion but was expected to survive, was described as an immigrant from Bangladesh, officials said.
The explosion Monday came just weeks after a man driving a truck plowed through pedestrians and bicyclists on a path along the west side of Manhattan, killing eight people and wounding a dozen others. That driver, who survived, was taken into custody and told authorities that he carried out the attack in the name of the Islamic State.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal, which bills itself as the world’s busiest bus terminal, is not far from Times Square. The incident occurred in the subway, a police spokesman said.
Details on how the suspect was apprehended were not immediately available, but the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, a union representing Port Authority police officers, said on Twitter that the department’s officers took down the suspect at gunpoint.
According to the police, three subway lines — the A, C and E — were evacuated as a result of the blast. All subway trains were bypassing the Port Authority and Times Square stations, officials said.
Update regarding explosion at 42nd St and 8th Ave, in subway: One male suspect is in custody. No injuries other than suspect at this time. Avoid the area. Subways bypassing #PortAuthority and Times Square Stations. Info is preliminary. pic.twitter.com/bEAdjq8mYc
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 11, 2017
As of 8:35 am local time the NYPD reported there were no injuries to anyone but the suspect. A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed to that one male suspect was in custody, but could not provide any details about his injuries. A police official told the Associated Press that the suspect had a pipe bomb strapped to him when it went off.
— ABC News (@ABC) December 11, 2017
The explosion occurred at approximately 7:25 am. The Port Authority building was evacuated and several subway lines were bypassing the neighboring Times Square and Port Authority subway stations.
A small pipe bomb went off near the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Monday, and the suspect was immediately taken into custody, police sources said.
The blast happened in an underground subway passage just 200 feet from the terminal at West 42nd St. and Eighth Ave., the sources said.
Port Authority cops immediately arrested the suspect, who was injured in the explosion. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital and is expected to survive, sources said.
Four people in total were wounded at the scene, the FDNY confirmed, all of whom have non-life-threatening injuries.
This photo confirmed by CBS News shows a suspect after his explosive device detonated in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City Dec. 11, 2017.
Police found an explosive device on the suspect, who had wires attached to his body, one source added. Authorities evacuated the A, C and E trains, but didn’t find any structural damage. “It’s pretty chaotic over there right now,” said a law enforcement source with knowledge of the situation.
Police and firefighters arrive on the street outside of the Port Authority Bus Terminal after an explosion on Monday morning.
Gov. Cuomo was photographed with MTA Chair Joe Lhota inside the Times Square subway station being briefed on the situation. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has been added to the team investigating the explosion.
The early morning blast sent a wave of panic through the busy area, as commuters scrambled to safety. Witnesses recalled a stampede of people out of the subway and the sprawling bus terminal, with reports of more people injured in the rush.
The explosion was reported at the bus terminal, seen in 2016, on Manhattan’s West Side. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News )
As of this report, no group has taken responsibility for the attack, and the NYPD hasn’t confirmed a motive.
The NYPD is responding to reports of an explosion of unknown origin at 42nd Street and 8th Ave, #Manhattan. The A, C and E line are being evacuated at this time. Info is preliminary, more when available. pic.twitter.com/7vpNT97iLC
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 11, 2017
The New York City blast comes amid calls from ISIS to attack the Big Apple during the Christmas season.
LeNora Millen 12-11-17
Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Fired by Morgan Stanley for Alleged Misconduct
Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired by the financial services firm Morgan Stanley following allegations of misconduct, NBC confirmed on Thursday.
Morgan Stanley declined to say specifically what prompted the firing. The allegations were presented after a woman who was not employed at the firm accused Mr. Ford of acting inappropriately in a professional setting.
Mr. Ford’s termination reported by HuffPost as an exclusive has been challenged by the former Congressman as “false claims.”
Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman, was fired from his position as a managing director at the financial services firm Morgan Stanley for what the company described as behavior “inconsistent with our values.”CreditMike Groll/Associated Press
In a statement provided by his lawyer, Mr. Ford denied the sexual harassment allegations, stating in a tweet on Thursday that he will be bringing legal action against the reporter, for making false claims against him, as well as Morgan Stanley for wrongful termination.
I will now be bringing legal action against the reporter who made these false claims about me as well as Morgan Stanley for improper termination.
— Harold Ford, Jr. (@HFord2) December 7, 2017
“This simply did not happen,” Mr. Ford wrote. “I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.” He added that socializing with members of the press was part of his job, and said that “false claims like this undermine the real silence breakers.”
In regards to news today, This simply did not happen. I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.
— Harold Ford, Jr. (@HFord2) December 7, 2017
Mr. Ford served five terms in Congress as a Democrat representing a Tennessee district after first being elected in 1996—serving as Congressman from 1997 to 207.
He joined Morgan Stanley as a managing director and senior client-relationship manager in 2011 as a vice chairman and senior policy adviser at Bank of America.
Amid the heightened scrutiny of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior toppling key figures in the entertainment and political arena, Mr. Ford is the latest high profiled man to lose his job in recent days for similar allegations.
Time magazine on Wednesday named the “Silence Breakers” its Person of the Year. They shared personal stories about harassment and assault and sparked the #MeToo movement.
According to Time, the #MeToo became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning. But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.
In a tweet acknowledging his thoughts on the “Silence Breaker” quite pointed in his statement, Mr. Ford said the following in regards to news of his firing on Thursday, “This simply did not happen. I have never forcibly grabbed any woman or man in my life.”
In another tweet, Mr. Ford spoke about his professional demeanor and his tremendous respect for the brave women speaking out “in this important national dialogue.” Mr. Ford was pointed in stating that false claims alleged against him “undermine the real “Silence Breakers.”
Mr. Ford appeaed as a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” MSNBC – which is owned by NBC 4 New York’s parent company.
“We are looking into the report about Harold Ford Jr.,” a spokeswoman for MSNBC said. “During that time he won’t be a guest on MSNBC.”
LeNora Millen 12-7-17
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