• Buscaino Usurps Ken Malloy

    • 06/22/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    The symbolic swearing-in ceremony of Councilman Joe Buscaino took place simultaneously with the grand re-opening of the 290-acre Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park at Machado Lake on June 17. The former home of Reggie the Alligator, Harbor Regional Park is the crown jewel of Proposition O-funded projects to improve the water quality across Los Angeles. The park renovation cost some $111 million and took 54 years from the time the city purchased the property in 1971 to the present. For most of those years, the regional park was mostly ignored except by one man — Ken Malloy ­— who spent those years inspiring new generations with his vision. Malloy died in 1991, across from the park at Kaiser Hospital, never seeing the end results of his efforts.

    Back in the 1950s and 1960s, locals still referred to the area as Bixby Slough, named after the cattle rancher who once owned much of the surrounding area and grazed his cattle on the hills of Palos Verdes.

    It was mostly ignored by commuters driving off the hill heading to the aerospace factories in El Segundo and Hawthorne, before the Harbor Freeway was extended from Sepulveda Boulevard into San Pedro.

    The “slough” was one of the historic wanders of the Los Angeles River that led to the bay, down to what is now North Gaffey Street, an area where the water table still resides just below the asphalt.

    In the obituary that ran in 1991, Malloy was described, as the “San Pedro preservationist,” a retired longshoreman, one-time grocery store owner and early member of the California Conservation Corps. He was perhaps best known for leading the fight for the purchase of the 320-acre park by the City of Los Angeles. During his lifetime, Malloy not only spearheaded the development of the park’s overnight youth campground and wildlife sanctuary, “but also personally tended the grounds as meticulously as a gardener would care for a flowerbed.”

    In our story covering the 2014 ground breaking, we wrote:

    Ken Malloy’s love affair with Harbor Regional Park began before it was even considered a park. In 1937, when he bumped his car into some grazing cattle, it was pasture land bordered by oil wells to the south and east. According to a brief biography, written by his son Thomas, Malloy was a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist who loved the outdoors. Malloy was a member of several nature or environmental clubs, including the Izaak Walton League of America and the Sierra Club.

    Malloy couldn’t leave the park alone, returning again and again until he was moved to organize like-minded people to lobby the city to buy the land and turn it into a park. Malloy fought many battles over the years, such as leading the charge to prevent the military from taking the White Point Navy property back to build Air force housing for its officers. Malloy’s efforts and mentoring turned out to be seeds he planted along the way.

    Though they never met in life, Martin Byhower took up Malloy’s torch. He, along with his mentor and Audubon Society President Jess Morton, visionary and Park Advisory Board President Frank O’Brien and Park Advisory Board members JoAnn Valle, Joyce Fredericks, Greg Donnan and Roxy Lowe should have been celebrated for their volunteer efforts over the years to restore this park. Instead, the restoration of the park was used as one more “selfie” event to be posted on the councilman’s endless digital re-election campaign.

    Even so, this landmark environmental restoration project with all of its family-friendly amenities can, in the end, only be viewed as a flawed solution. As I will once again remind the citizens of this area, along with exorcising many of the invasive species from Machado Lake, the Recreation and Parks Department also evicted some 167 homeless souls onto the streets of the surrounding communities, exposing one of the city’s greatest hypocrisies: a rogue alligator received better treatment than people in need.

    Clearly, with any kind of forethought, the council office and the City of Los Angeles could have carved out one acre of the 290 for the purposes of creating an emergency shelter to address the homeless crisis. But they did not.  It is a sad commentary om our elected leaders and our agencies that they are be so myopically focused on solving one problem. Then, when they literally stumble across a much bigger one, they don’t stop and ask, How do we solve both problems with one solution?”

    Read more about Ken Malloy Park in the RLn archives at The 21st Century Johnny Appleseed, April 2014 RLn and see historic pictures of the area at http://www.utopianature.com/kmhrp/historical.html, and at http://tinyurl.com/Martin-Byhower.

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  • FRIDA @ Long Beach Opera

    When basing a work of art on historical figures or events, you should ask yourself: Would this be interesting if it were pure fiction? This must be an old adage, but it’s not popular enough, because too often such works seem to lean on the crutch of audience familiarity, as if the fact that we know/care about real-life such-and-such means the artist is halfway home before putting pen to paper or note to staff.

    Too often they’re right. You would not believe how many times I hear audience members make clearly audible sounds of appreciation (“Mmm”) at any reference they recognize. Stick a bunch of pop-culture references in a comedy, and no matter how bad your jokes are, half the audience is automatically rolling in the aisles.

    Without making any statement about her merits as a painter, Frida Kahlo is a pop icon. Everyone’s heard of her, and a lot of people love her and those well-deep eyes staring out beneath the world’s most famous unibrow. That fact alone means many people who otherwise would never go to the opera will come out for Robert Xavier Rodríguez’s Frida, and many who’d have no taste for it were it pure fiction will eat it up. I’m sorry to say that those are the only people to whom I can recommend this curiously conceived and poorly-fleshed-out work.

    We meet Frida (Laura Virella, who definitely looks the part) as a rather leftist prep-school student (they study Marx) just as the Mexican Revolution is coming to an end. They look forward to being a generation that will realize the promise of a people whose country that has suffocated the proletariat for so long. A couple of years later Frida’s own promise nearly meets a premature end, as she narrowly survives a horrific bus accident. She is damaged for life, but a new artistry is born as she lay convalescing, painting the first of those now-famous self-portraits. “I was full of life dancing in a world full of color,” she sings. “[…] I’m old in an instant. […] Death dances around my bed at night, but I refuse to die. […] I’ll create the Frida I want to be.”

    The second half of Act II is so centered on Diego Rivera (Bernardo Bermudez) that you start to wonder who this is really about. Diego has a falling out with the communists. Diego wants to move to America. Diego is the toast of New York. Diego gets a commission from Rockefeller. When Frida opens her mouth, it’s Diego, Diego, Diego. By the time she has a miscarriage just before intermission, she’s become as a supporting character in her own story.

    To be fair, in real-life she was pretty damn into Diego back then, and he was definitely a big deal, so okay. Plus, Frida’s back at the center of things in Act II. Unfortunately, the plot here is so thin that if I tell you that Frida has a hard time with Diego’s philandering, Frida start philandering on her own, Frida paints, and Frida’s health deteriorates, I’ve given everything away but Trotsky. And while such a dearth of plot points is not necessarily a death sentence, Rodríguez and co-writers Hilary Blecher (book) and Migdalia Cruz (lyrics/monologues) committed a far less venial sin: they skimp on depth. Emotional exchanges between characters are expressed at a telenovela level, while expositional monologs (a lot in Frida is spoken rather than sung) are often so unadorned that it feels like this is workshop narrative holding the place for the eventual finished lines. A full scene of monolog that is Frida talking to her photographer lover (not even a character in the opera) adds nothing to the plot and brings the proceedings—which were weak on momentum, anyway—to an awkward halt. This exemplifies how most of Frida—and almost everything after the bus crash—simply skims the surface of Kahlo’s life, landing momentarily on a well-known plot point, then skipping on to the next.

    All might be forgiven were Frida musically compelling, but I really don’t know what Rodríguez is trying to accomplish. His hodgepodge technique of drawing upon the Gershwin-esque, vaudeville (!), and a host of incongruent elements in unsatisfying short bursts (way too frequently concluded with a cymbal choke) left me cold and left no-one with a single melodic memory we could carry away with us. Just as puzzling is why Mexico is not more present in the score. Considering how fiercely Mexican Frida Kahlo was and how much of Frida takes place in Mexico, the statelessness of the music makes me wonder whether Rodríguez tried too hard play against perceived expectations of a Mexican-American composer writing about a Mexican woman.

    Because Rodríguez’s style here is so momentum-averse, Frida‘s best musical moments never last long. There probably aren’t four songs—good or bad—that go three minutes without a drastic shift—and often such shifts come every 10 or 20 seconds. I was hoping the lovely flugelhorn-themed, marimba-backed opener of Act II would develop into an aria. Nope. I also would have loved more of the Greek chorus of Calaveras (Alejandra Martinez, Joanna Ceja, Jonathan Lacayo, and David Castillo, all of whom also play several other roles). They first appear during Frida’s bus crash, jumping in with a whiny warble of high-pitched monotone (a distinctly Mexican style of singing for which obviously I lack the proper term) that, along with a dramatic shift to red lighting, immediately transports us to another headspace. It’s an inspired move, but Rodríguez gives them only 15 seconds here and comes back to them maybe three more times in the entire opera (and only once at length). It was interesting and effective every time, and every time it put me in mind of the opera I wish Rodríguez had written.

    Because Rodríguez gives his soloists so few opportunities to stretch their vocal legs, it’s hard to judge their performances. Clearly Virella is a solid mezzo-soprano, Bermudez’s baritone always rings out clear and true, and they are always within their comfort zones; we just never get to hear them explore or expose themselves at length, nor do we get to hear much interesting back-and-forth between them. The closest we get are a couple of all-cast numbers, but because of Rodríguez’s hodgepodge style, what is most compelling sonically is how the physical separation of the voices create auditory horizontal breadth.

    Frida Kahlo is not going to lack for fans anytime soon. But considering that Frida gives us less insight into her life—and her soul, I’m afraid—than does her Wikipedia article, with as little as the music gives audience’s to hold on to, I doubt she’ll garner any new ones from the opera bearing her name. But if you’re already a fan, hey, it’s fun to see history brought to life, right?

    FRIDA LONG BEACH OPERA • 562.432.5934 LONGBEACHOPERA.ORG • fridaY–SUNDAY 8PM • $29–$150; STUDENT RUSH TIX $15 • JUNE 23 @ Grand Performances (350 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 90071; JUNE 24–25 @ Museum of Latin American Art (628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach 90802)

    (Photo credit: Keith Ian Polakoff)

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  • Desmond Bridge Closures

    The Gerald Desmond Bridge will be closed eastbound through June 19 to continue with the construction of the new bridge, which will eventually connect to the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

    The bridge will be closed westbound from June 23 to June 26.. Motorists are advised to avoid the area entirely during the weekend-long closures.

    Detours will be in place, but motorists who do not need to access certain piers in the Port of Long Beach should use alternate routes: Anaheim Street, Pacific Coast Highway or the 405 Freeway.

    The closure is at the Pier T on-ramp. Motorists will be detoured to exit at Pier S/State Route 47 and take SR-47 north to eastbound Anaheim Street, which connects to the 710 Freeway.

    Details: www.newgdbridge.com

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  • LB City Council Moves to Prepare Ordinance to Ban RVs

    • 06/15/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    LONG BEACH — On June 13, the Long Beach City Council voted 8-0, District 6 Councilman Dee Andrew was not present, to update the Municipal Code Section 10.24.078 to prohibit parking of oversized and recreational vehicles on City rights-of-way within residential neighborhoods.

    The ban would apply to vehicles that are more than 22 feet long. It would require RV owners to park their vehicles in driveways or apply for a 72-hour parking permit.

    Residents will be able to apply for free permits up to 20 times, allowing residents to park their oversized vehicles in front of their house. The cost for signage is estimated to be about $18,000.

    District 3 Councilwoman introduced the item this past October to reduce vehicle posing traffic visibility and blight issues.

    In a press release Josh Butler, executive director for Housing Long Beach said he believes that banning oversized vehicles from city streets is “akin to treating a gunshot wound with a gauze.”

    “Everyday people are coming into our office because they are losing their apartment because it has been sold or the rent has been jacked up,” Butler said. “The fact that people have resorted to sleeping in camper vans is sad, the fact that they are being kicked out is even sadder.”

    Price and the other council members said the ordinance is not a form to criminalize homeless people who are sleeping their vehicles.

    “I did not intend, nor am I prepared to discuss and have received zero notice that we were going to be speaking on ordinances involving people sleeping in their vehicles and the legal parameters of such,” said Price, responding to concerns from District 2 Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce. “That’s not on the agenda, and in my opinion I think we’re talking about two very different issues.”

    Pearce wanted the amendments to the ordinance to remove parts referring to people sleeping in their cars because the policy is not being enforced and puts the city in danger of litigation.

    Assistant City Attorney Tom Modica said that the council was speaking of “two separate populations,” noting that most people who live in RVs do not consider themselves homeless.

    However,  they are counted in homeless counts. .

    Pearce is working to introduce a Safe/Transitional Parking Pilot Program that will take people who are living in their cars off the streets and into designated lots (e.g. faith-based agencies) at night where they will be connected to services within a Continuum of Care, and a path to permanent housing.

    “While this pilot will not apply to RVs/oversized vehicles, it’s an important part of the equation towards ending homelessness—especially while we continue to identify and develop more permanent housing stock in Long Beach,” said Pearce in her newsletter.

    After the ordinance is drafted, the city council would need to adopt it and then go to the California Coastal Commission.

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  • Free Legal Clinic for Veterans

    Veterans with legal questions will be able to attend a free workshop. The workshop is open to any veteran in need of help with minor offenses tickets and failure to appear charges. They also will get information regarding about how to get certain convictions expunged. Registration is required
    Time: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 21
    Details: (213) 896-6537; www.lacba.org/veterans
    Venue: Bob Hope Patriotic Hall, 1816 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles

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  • Jackson’s Place: The New South Comes to Old San Pedro

    • 06/15/2017
    • Richard Foss
    • Cuisine
    • Comments are off

    The newest restaurateur in San Pedro is serving Louisiana cooking, but not in the surroundings you might expect. Kevin Faciane knows that most Southern eateries feature the rustic cabin look, but that’s not his vision at the new Jackson’s Place.

    “The sawdust-on-the-floor thing is fine for a certain style of place, but it’s not what I want to do,”  Faciane said. “It’s more on the Creole side than the Cajun side, a more contemporary and urbane Cajun. That would be a nice name for a restaurant, Urbane Cajun.”

    Kevin Faciane is bringing the New South to Old San Pedro at Jackson’s Place, an urban Cajun restaurant. Photo by Richard Foss.

    There haven’t been many changes to the art-filled room that used to be a wine bar serving simple sandwiches, but the menu has been transformed. Faciane is cooking the food that is part of his heritage — though he grew up in Los Angeles, both parents were from Louisiana.

    “Mom was used to cooking what her mother made and she was busy raising four boys and stuck with what she knew,” he said. “Home cooking was Cajun. Monday night was always red beans and rice; there was fried chicken, smothered pork chops — all the traditional items. That’s the culture she passed on to us.”

    Kevin learned that cuisine and kept cooking it for friends after he became an aerospace and technology engineer. The idea of opening a restaurant came to him gradually.

    “My family is really big,” he said. “So, any time we got them all together we were cooking for almost 50 people anyway. My brothers and I started doing Mardi Gras parties about 15 years ago, and the parties got bigger and bigger. Then we added a Fourth of July party, tailgate parties for the [U]SC-Notre Dame game. After doing all those parties and always having people over for food, we started thinking, maybe we should look for a restaurant.”

    He started the project with an engineer’s attitude to research and got a job at a now-closed Ports O’ Call Village restaurant to see if he liked the business.

    “I was working at Northrop by day and doing banquets at Nizitich’s so I could learn how a restaurant operates. I saw for myself what goes on in a restaurant and even after that, I still wanted to do it. I decided you could run a restaurant and have a life at the same time if you do it right. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.”

    After deciding to go forward, the San Pedro resident considered a location in Belmont Shore, but a chance interaction led him to consider a place closer to home.

    There was one problem with the restaurant he took over: it had a tiny kitchen.

    “It was a wine bar that served snacks, but didn’t have a cooking line — they had a panini press and convection oven, and they made cheese plates. People stopped by on their way to dinner or after an event, but it wasn’t a food destination. We’re going to extend the building with a cargo container right outside the backdoor; it will be fitted out in advance with the other items we need. ”

    That new kitchen is still under construction but the menu has already expanded. A barbecue in the back is turning out pulled pork, jambalaya, gumbo, seafood etoufée and other delights. These are made with attention to tradition.

    “Cajun cuisine involves sauces that take hours that are put on items that take minutes,” he said. “The seafood doesn’t touch heat until it’s almost ready to be served, so the customer always gets everything fresh. We think you can tell the difference even if you’re not really familiar with this food.”

    He is ready for the day when that kitchen is finished and will add a jazz brunch, fried chicken, steaks, and grilled seafood. The big plans involve a big investment and raised the question of why he would locate his restaurant in a town with no obvious cultural link to the American South.

    “The future is bright here in downtown San Pedro, despite the fact that there’s not a big Cajun community locally,” he said. “A lot more people know about this food than you’d expect, because they’ve tried it elsewhere and are excited about getting it near their homes. Many of my customers have Southern roots and there’s an underserved African-American community in San Pedro that appreciates this cuisine. Our target audience is San Pedrans and there is nothing like us here.”

    He also cites demographic changes as a reason for optimism.

    “The downtown core is very urban, and younger people today — the ones between 25 and 40 — they like urban,” he said. “They’re not afraid of it; they embrace the history and the authenticity and character. There are projects that are coming in that will bring in new tenants and workers, and that’s not including whatever impact we get from the San Pedro Public Market renovation. That will become a magnet for people from outside and will also give locals more reasons to come downtown instead of thinking of other places for dining and nightlife. There are plans to make this a pedestrian-friendly area, which worked very well in South Pasadena, and people are going to want to come and walk around.”

    “People who love this cuisine will travel to find it, and they like to try them all – people come in and tell me they’ve been to Little Jewel downtown, Ragin’ Cajun in Redondo, Uncle Darrow’s in Carson, they list them all,” he said. “We’re now part of that conversation. ”

    The engineer-turned restaurateur has done a remarkable job of transitioning from an orderly business to one that is unpredictable under the best of circumstances.

    “An engineer can go into their office and close the door and tweak something until it’s perfected, but here every day I’m judged on every minute of the experience,” he said. “Someone asked me what the business is like and I asked them if they had ever hosted a family Christmas. You know how you have to run around all day and get things ready, work for hours serving and then at the end of the night everybody goes home? At the end of that you have a year to get ready to do it again. I have to do that tomorrow, so for me it’s Christmas every day. It’s harder than that, because when you have people over for Christmas you know how many you invited and when they’re coming — I don’t.”

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  • Sharon Marie Cline’s Summer of Love

    ENTERTAINMENT

    June 17
    Sharon Marie
    Join Sharon’s 2017 kickoff of her Summer Love Concert schedule, and enjoy intimate jazz with Sharon Marie Cline and The Bad Boyz of Jazz.
    Time: 8 p.m. June 17
    Cost: $20
    Details: https://alvasshowroom.com/event/sharon-marie-cline-summer-of-love
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    June 17
    Firebird Quintet
    This concert series present is presented by the Beverly Hills National Auditions winner, Firebird Balalaika Ensemble.
    Time: 3 p.m. June 17
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.palosverdes.com
    Venue: First Lutheran Church and School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    June 18
    Music on the Meadows
    Kick off summer and celebrate Father’s Day weekend with Terranea Resort’s annual oceanfront concert Music on the Meadows! Enjoy an afternoon filled with music from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and other headliners, Farm-to-Terranea barbecue and local breweries.
    Time:12 to 7 p.m. June 18
    Cost: $65 to $85
    Details: ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1487893
    Venue: Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes

    June 18
    Rhythmic Relations 2017
    Taikoproject ain’t your mama’s taiko, but it may be your hip younger cousin’s. This two-hour concert will also feature sister groups Kitsune Taiko and Bombu Taiko and guest performers from Los Angeles-based Cirque Berzerk.
    Time: 7 to 9 p.m. June 18
    Cost: $22 to $28
    Details: www.TAIKOPROJECT.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    June 18
    The Swinging Whalers
    The Swinging Whalers perform on Third Thursdays, from a quartet of tenor saxophone, guitar and drums.
    Time: 7 to 9 p.m. June 18
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 832-0363
    Venue: The Whale & Ale, 327 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    THEATER

    June 16
    Long Beach Playhouse Radio Hour
    Long Beach Playhouse will present the seventh annual Long Beach Playhouse Radio Hour. It’s performed by Long Beach political players, who this year are: Mayor Robert Garcia, Suzie Price, Rex Richardson, Marcelle Epley, Shirley Wild, Porter Gilberg, Mari Hooper, Steve Keesal and Mike Murray, with Art Levine on sound and Mitchell Nunn as master of ceremonies.
    Time: 6 to 8 p.m. June 16
    Cost: $5
    Details: (562) 494-1014
    Venue: The Offices of Keesal Young & Logan, 400 Oceangate, Suite 1400, Long Beach

    June 17
    Fences
    The Long Beach Playhouse presents August Wilson’s Fences, which observes the African American experience across several decades.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 17
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    June 18
    The Last Five Years
    An emotionally powerful and intimate musical about two New Yorkers in their 20s who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 18
    Cost: $30
    Details: http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/friendsoftorrance/eventcalendar
    Venue: Torrance Theatre, 1316 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance

    July 8
    Dead Man’s Cellphone
    This work about how we memorialize the dead, and how that remembering changes us, is the odyssey of a woman confronting her own assumptions about morality, redemption, and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world.
    Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 8.
    Cost: $20 to $24
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St, Long Beach

    ARTS

    June 25
    A New View
    A New View features new member artist Susan Soffer Cohn,  jewelry artist Nancy Comaford and painter Parrish Nelson Hirasaki.
    Time: 4 to 7 p.m. through June 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 265-2592
    Venue: Artists’ Studio Gallery at Promenade on the Peninsula, 550 Deep Valley Drive, #159, Rolling Hills Estates

    June 26
    URBANO
    Marymount California University Arts & Media Presents URBANO By Dario Gonzalo Tavoni.
    URBANO by Dario Gonzalo Tavoni is a series of physical and digital paintings, which adapt characteristics of graffiti art to depict feelings and concerns toward judgment and society.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, through June 26
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 303-7311
    Venue: MCU Klaus Center for the Arts, 430 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    July 8
    Riverrun
    Ray Carofano’s Riverrun is a suite of photographs capturing seldom seen images of the 51-mile storm drain still flatteringly called the Los Angeles River. Carofano turns his subject into the narrator. The river narrates itself as it makes you want to look and, more importantly, look again.
    The exhibition runs through July 8.
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 315-3551 or office@dnjgallery.net
    Venue: DNJ Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. Suite J1, Santa Monica

    July 9
    Justin Favela: Gracias, Gracias, Thank You, Thank You!
    Following a tradition of social commentary practiced by notable Latino artists such as Coco Fusco, John Jota Leaños, and Alejandro Diaz, Justin Favela’s pinata-shaped sculptures meld memory with humor to reveal difficult to communicate experiences of identity and place. His exhibition at Palos Verdes Art Center presents pieces from his current body of work that has recently been exhibited at many venues in his home state of Nevada.
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. June 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays, through July 9
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.pvartcenter.org
    Venue: Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504 Crestridge Road, Rancho Palos Verdes

    July 30
    From The Desert to The Sea: The Desolation Center Experience
    Before the era of Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella, Desolation Center drew punk and industrial music fans to the far reaches of the Mojave Desert for the first of five events, “Mojave Exodus,” in April of 1983. Cornelius Projects pays tribute to Desolation Center’s pioneering vision with an exhibition featuring painting, photography, sculpture, video and ephemera.
    Time: 6 to 9 p.m. June 17, and 12 to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through July 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 266-9216
    Venue: Cornelius Projects Gallery, 1417 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro

    COMMUNITY

    June 17
    Elite Dance Studio June Showcase
    Join the students and faculty of PV’S Elite Dance Studio as they present their current crop of young performers and award-winning competition teams.
    Time: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. June 17
    Cost: $12 to $18
    Details: elitedancerhe.com
    Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro

    June 18
    Father’s Day Bowl Skate
    Dew Tour is offering the chance to participate in an open skate session on the pro bowl course and the public skate park before the venue is open to the public by purchasing a special pass. Entry also includes a pro skater meet and greet, coffee and pastries during the Father’s Day Bowl Skate and VIP passes to Sunday’s day of competition. Skaters must be intermediate to advanced level bowl skaters.
    Time: 9 to 11 a.m. June 18
    Cost: Free
    Details: DewTour.com/CommunityDay
    Venue: Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

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  • St. Mary’s Gets Grant to Help Homeless

    • 06/14/2017
    • RL Intern
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    By Gabriel Islas, Editorial Intern

    LONG BEACH — On June 13, Dignity Health at St. Mary Medical Center announced that it will soon be able to help homeless people with case management, housing resources and financial.

    The medical center will provide this assistance thanks to a grant from the UniHealth Foundation, a philanthropic organization whose mission it is to support and improve the health and well-being of communities, to implement the Healthlink Project. St. Mary’s is partnering with Mental Health America to identify and provide emergency patients with services.

    The two-year/$500,000 grant will help the multi-disciplinary team from HealthLink, including a case manager and a licensed clinical social worker, to assist patients with mental illness, unstable housing, one or more chronic conditions, primary care provider, and/or insurance.

    While the homeless population in Long Beach has decreased by 20 percent, the population still is greater than 1,800 people, according to a recent statement from city officials. The HealthLink project seeks to reduce this number and provide these people with affordable housing.

    “The HealthLink Project will have a tremendous impact on St. Mary Medical Center’s ability to provide comprehensive services by recognizing and addressing the needs of our patients who suffer from mental health disorders and homelessness,” stated Pamela Fair, a registered nurse and director of critical care and emergency services. “We also anticipate that it will help reduce our ER utilizations.”

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  • Death and Drug Trafficking Come to the Harbor Area

    • 06/13/2017
    • RL Intern
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    Elderly Man Dies after Assault and Robbery

    CARSON — Sheriffs are investigating the June 7 death of an 85-year-old Carson man.

    The man was assaulted and robbed, May 31, by an unknown suspect as he was walking alone in his neighborhood along the 300 block of East 220th Street in Carson.

    Suspect rendering

    The suspect was described as a male Hispanic in his 20s, light complexion, wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, dark shorts, dark baseball cap, with short curly hair.

    Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to call (323) 890-5500 or visit http://lacrimestoppers.org.

     

    22 Drug Trafficking Suspects Indicted, Massive Drug Ring Uncovered

    LOS ANGELES — On June 8, the Los Angeles Strike Force issued an indictment against 22 drug trafficking suspects.

    An investigation uncovered a drug ring operating within Los Angeles. The two-year investigation ended with the seizure of more than $6 million worth of narcotics, 33 firearms, three modified vehicles and an additional $1.3 million, along with the arrests of the 22 drug traffickers.

    Officials believe the 22 drug trafficking suspects are members of an organization associated with the Sinaloa Cartel.

    Forty-five-year-old Antonio, “El Sr.” Orozco, of Long Beach is among the suspects indicted. He allegedly transported narcotics across the national border.

    Julian “Jroc” Rocha, 33, of Azusa, Maria Ernestina Limon Elenes, 64, of Azusa, Froilan “DeL MoNtE” of Azusa, Oscar Arredondo, 53, of Bakersfield, Audrey Rose Urrea of Chula Vista and Martin Ruiz Saldana, 64, of Santa Ana were also indicted. Fifteen other suspects, one of whom was already in prison for unrelated charges, were unnamed by the Department of Justice.

    The Strike Force investigation revealed a sophisticated international drug trafficking network that regularly transported narcotics across the United States-Mexico border and at times stored drugs in “stash houses” across the San Gabriel Valley, to later be distributed across the United States. The investigation had also alleged that the money received from the narcotics would be legitimized through the U.S. banking system, by making multiple cash deposits into purportedly legitimate accounts to disguise the origin of thousands of dollars of illicit funds.

    The traffickers, if convicted of the charges brought to them, could face life imprisonment without parole in federal prison.

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  • Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort

    • 06/09/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • News
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    By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, Ryan Grim,  

    This story was originally published in The Intercept

    Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

    The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

    While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

    The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood.

    It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

    Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

    This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.

    The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results.

    The NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were both contacted for this article. Officials requested that we not publish or report on the top secret document and declined to comment on it. When informed that we intended to go ahead with this story, the NSA requested a number of redactions. The Intercept agreed to some of the redaction requests after determining that the disclosure of that material was not clearly in the public interest.

    The report adds significant new detail to the picture that emerged from the unclassified intelligence assessment about Russian election meddling released by the Obama administration in January. The January assessment presented the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions but omitted many specifics, citing concerns about disclosing sensitive sources and methods. The assessment concluded with high confidence that the Kremlin ordered an extensive, multi-pronged propaganda effort “to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

    That review did not attempt to assess what effect the Russian efforts had on the election, despite the fact that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, the assessment reported reassuringly, “the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.”

    The NSA has now learned, however, that Russian government hackers, part of a team with a “cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections,” focused on parts of the system directly connected to the voter registration process, including a private sector manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. Some of the company’s devices are advertised as having wireless internet and Bluetooth connectivity, which could have provided an ideal staging point for further malicious actions.

    gru-chart-russia-hacking-election-1496684832

    Attached to the secret NSA report is an overview chart detailing the Russian government’s spear-phishing operation, apparently missing a second page that was not provided to The Intercept.

    Graphic: NSA

    The Spear-Phishing Attack

    As described by the classified NSA report, the Russian plan was simple: pose as an e-voting vendor and trick local government employees into opening Microsoft Word documents invisibly tainted with potent malware that could give hackers full control over the infected computers.

    But in order to dupe the local officials, the hackers needed access to an election software vendor’s internal systems to put together a convincing disguise. So on August 24, 2016, the Russian hackers sent spoofed emails purporting to be from Google to employees of an unnamed U.S. election software company, according to the NSA report. Although the document does not directly identify the company in question, it contains references to a product made by VR Systems, a Florida-based vendor of electronic voting services and equipment whose products are used in eight states.

    The spear-phishing email contained a link directing the employees to a malicious, faux-Google website that would request their login credentials and then hand them over to the hackers. The NSA identified seven “potential victims” at the company. While malicious emails targeting three of the potential victims were rejected by an email server, at least one of the employee accounts was likely compromised, the agency concluded. The NSA notes in its report that it is “unknown whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised all the intended victims, and what potential data from the victim could have been exfiltrated.”

    VR Systems declined to respond to a request for comment on the specific hacking operation outlined in the NSA document. Chief Operating Officer Ben Martin replied by email to The Intercept’s request for comment with the following statement:

    Phishing and spear-phishing are not uncommon in our industry. We regularly participate in cyber alliances with state officials and members of the law enforcement community in an effort to address these types of threats. We have policies and procedures in effect to protect our customers and our company.

    Although the NSA report indicates that VR Systems was targeted only with login-stealing trickery, rather than computer-controlling malware, this isn’t necessarily a reassuring sign. Jake Williams, founder of computer security firm Rendition Infosec and formerly of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking team, said stolen logins can be even more dangerous than an infected computer. “I’ll take credentials most days over malware,” he said, since an employee’s login information can be used to penetrate “corporate VPNs, email, or cloud services,” allowing access to internal corporate data. The risk is particularly heightened given how common it is to use the same password for multiple services. Phishing, as the name implies, doesn’t require everyone to take the bait in order to be a success — though Williams stressed that hackers “never want just one” set of stolen credentials.

    nsa-russia-hacking-election-3-1496690296

    A detail from a top-secret NSA report on a Russian military intelligence operation targeting the U.S. election infrastructure.

    Image: NSA

    In any event, the hackers apparently got what they needed. Two months later, on October 27, they set up an “operational” Gmail account designed to appear as if it belonged to an employee at VR Systems, and used documents obtained from the previous operation to launch a second spear-phishing operation “targeting U.S. local government organizations.” These emails contained a Microsoft Word document that had been “trojanized” so that when it was opened it would send out a beacon to the “malicious infrastructure” set up by the hackers.

    The NSA assessed that this phase of the spear-fishing operation was likely launched on either October 31 or November 1 and sent spear-fishing emails to 122 email addresses “associated with named local government organizations,” probably to officials “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The emails contained Microsoft Word attachments purporting to be benign documentation for VR Systems’ EViD voter database product line, but which were in reality maliciously embedded with automated software commands that are triggered instantly and invisibly when the user opens the document. These particular weaponized files used PowerShell, a Microsoft scripting language designed for system administrators and installed by default on Windows computers, allowing vast control over a system’s settings and functions. If opened, the files “very likely” would have instructed the infected computer to begin downloading in the background a second package of malware from a remote server also controlled by the hackers, which the secret report says could have provided attackers with “persistent access” to the computer or the ability to “survey the victims for items of interest.” Essentially, the weaponized Word document quietly unlocks and opens a target’s back door, allowing virtually any cocktail of malware to be subsequently delivered automatically.

    According to Williams, if this type of attack were successful, the perpetrator would possess “unlimited” capacity for siphoning away items of interest. “Once the user opens up that email [attachment],” Williams explained, “the attacker has all the same capabilities that the user does.” Vikram Thakur, a senior research manager at Symantec’s Security Response Team, told The Intercept that in cases like this the “quantity of exfiltrated data is only limited by the controls put in place by network administrators.” Data theft of this variety is typically encrypted, meaning anyone observing an infected network wouldn’t be able to see what exactly was being removed but should certainly be able to tell something was afoot, Williams added. Overall, the method is one of “medium sophistication,” Williams said, one that “practically any hacker can pull off.”

    The NSA, however, is uncertain about the results of the attack, according to the report. “It is unknown,” the NSA notes, “whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accessed by the cyber actor.”

    The FBI would not comment about whether it is pursuing a criminal investigation into the cyber attack on VR Systems.

    At a December press conference, President Obama said that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in September not to hack the U.S. election infrastructure. “What I was concerned about in particular was making sure [the DNC hack] wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself,” Obama said. “So in early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn’t. And in fact we did not see further tampering of the election process.”

    Yet the NSA has now found that the tampering continued. “The fact that this is occurring in October is troubling,” said one senior law enforcement official with significant cyber expertise. “In August 2016 warnings went out from the FBI and DHS to those agencies. This was not a surprise. This was not hard to defend against. But you needed a commitment of budget and attention.”

    The NSA document briefly describes two other election-related Russian hacking operations. In one, Russian military hackers created an email account pretending to be another U.S. election company, referred to in the document as U.S. company 2, from which they sent fake test emails offering “election-related products and services.” The agency was unable to determine whether there was any targeting using this account.

    In a third Russian operation, the same group of hackers sent test emails to addresses at the American Samoa Election Office, presumably to determine whether those accounts existed before launching another phishing attack. It is unclear what the effort achieved, but the NSA assessed that the Russians appeared intent on “mimicking a legitimate absentee ballot-related service provider.” The report does not indicate why the Russians targeted the tiny Pacific islands, a U.S. territory with no electoral votes to contribute to the election.

    A voter casts her ballot on Nov. 8, 2016 in Ohio.

    Photo: Ty Wright/Getty Images

    An Alluring Target

    Getting attention and a budget commitment to election security requires solving a political riddle. “The problem we have is that voting security doesn’t matter until something happens, and then after something happens, there’s a group of people who don’t want the security, because whatever happened, happened in their favor,” said Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity expert at Harvard’s Berkman Center who has written frequently about the security vulnerabilities of U.S. election systems. “That makes it a very hard security problem, unlike your bank account.”

    Schneier said the attack, as described by the NSA, is standard hacking procedure. “Credential-stealing, spear-phishing — this is how it’s done,” he said. “Once you get a beachhead, then you try to figure out how to go elsewhere.”

    All of this means that it is critical to understand just how integral VR Systems is to our election system, and what exactly the implications of this breach are for the integrity of the result.

    VR Systems doesn’t sell the actual touchscreen machines used to cast a vote, but rather the software and devices that verify and catalogue who’s permitted to vote when they show up on Election Day or for early voting. Companies like VR are “very important” because “a functioning registration system is central to American elections,” explained Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. Vendors like VR are also particularly sensitive, according to Norden, because local election offices “are often unlikely to have many or even any IT staff,” meaning “a vendor like this will also provide most of the IT assistance, including the work related to programming and cyber security”—not the kind of people you want unwittingly compromised by a hostile nation state.

    According to its website, VR Systems has contracts in eight states: California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    Pamela Smith, president of election integrity watchdog Verified Voting, agreed that even if VR Systems doesn’t facilitate the actual casting of votes, it could make an alluring target for anyone hoping to disrupt the vote.

    “If someone has access to a state voter database, they can take malicious action by modifying or removing information,” she said. “This could affect whether someone has the ability to cast a regular ballot, or be required to cast a ‘provisional’ ballot — which would mean it has to be checked for their eligibility before it is included in the vote, and it may mean the voter has to jump through certain hoops such as proving their information to the election official before their eligibility is affirmed.”

    Mark Graff, a digital security consultant and former chief cybersecurity officer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, described such a hypothetical tactic as “effectively a denial of service attack” against would-be voters. But a more worrying prospect, according to Graff, is that hackers would target a company like VR Systems to get closer to the actual tabulation of the vote. An attempt to directly break into or alter the actual voting machines would be more conspicuous and considerably riskier than compromising an adjacent, less visible part of the voting system, like voter registration databases, in the hope that one is networked to the other. Sure enough, VR Systems advertises the fact that its EViD computer polling station equipment line is connected to the internet, and that on Election Day “a voter’s voting history is transmitted immediately to the county database” on a continuous basis. A computer attack can thus spread quickly and invisibly through networked components of a system like germs through a handshake.

    According to Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society and an electronic voting expert, one of the main concerns in the scenario described by the NSA document is the likelihood that the officials setting up the electronic poll books are the same people doing the pre-programming of the voting machines. The actual voting machines aren’t going to be networked to something like VR Systems’ EViD, but they do receive manual updates and configuration from people at the local or state level who could be responsible for both. If those were the people targeted by the GRU malware, the implications are troubling.

    “Usually at the county level there’s going to be some company that does the pre-election programming of the voting machines,” Halderman told The Intercept. “I would worry about whether an attacker who could compromise the poll book vendor might be able to use software updates that the vendor distributes to also infect the election management system that programs the voting machines themselves,” he added. “Once you do that, you can cause the voting machine to create fraudulent counts.”

    According to Schneier, a major prize in breaching VR Systems would be the ability to gather enough information to effectively execute spoof attacks against election officials themselves. Coming with the imprimatur of the election board’s main contractor, a fake email looks that much more authentic.

    A detail from a top-secret NSA report on a Russian military intelligence operation targeting the U.S. election infrastructure.

    Image: NSA

    Such a breach could also serve as its own base from which to launch disruptions. One U.S. intelligence official conceded that the Russian operation outlined by the NSA — targeting voter registration software — could potentially have disrupted voting in the locations where VR Systems’ products were being used. And a compromised election poll book system can do more than cause chaos on Election Day, said Halderman. “You could even do that preferentially in areas for voters that are likely to vote for a certain candidate and thereby have a partisan effect.”

    Using this method to target a U.S. presidential election, the Russian approach faces a challenge in the decentralized federal election system, where processes differ not merely state to state but often county to county.  And meanwhile, the Electoral College makes it difficult to predict where efforts should be concentrated.

    “Hacking an election is hard, not because of technology — that’s surprisingly easy — but it’s hard to know what’s going to be effective,” said Schneier. “If you look at the last few elections, 2000 was decided in Florida, 2004 in Ohio, the most recent election in a couple counties in Michigan and Pennsylvania, so deciding exactly where to hack is really hard to know.”

    But the system’s decentralization is also a vulnerability. There is no strong central government oversight of the election process or the acquisition of voting hardware or software. Likewise, voter registration, maintenance of voter rolls, and vote counting lack any effective national oversight. There is no single authority with the responsibility for safeguarding elections. Christian Hilland, a spokesperson for the FEC, told The Intercept that “the Federal Election Commission does not have jurisdiction over voting matters as well as software and hardware in connection with casting votes. You may want to check with the Election Assistance Commission.”

    Checking with the EAC is also less than confidence inspiring. The commission was created in 2002 as the congressional reaction to the vote-counting debacle of 2000. The EAC notes online that it “is charged with serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems,” but it is a backwater commission with no real authority. Click on the link about certifying voting systems and it leads you to a dead page.

    If there were a central U.S. election authority, it might have launched an investigation into what happened in Durham, North Carolina, on Election Day. The registration system malfunctioned at a number of polling locations, causing chaos and long lines, which triggered election officials to switch to paper ballots and extend voting later into the evening.

    Durham’s voter rolls were run by VR Systems — the same firm that was compromised by the Russian hack, according to the NSA document.

    Local officials said that a hack was not the cause of the disruption. “The N.C. State Board of Elections did not experience any suspicious activity during the 2016 election outside of what this agency experiences at other times. Any potential risks or vulnerabilities are being monitored, and this agency works with the Department of Homeland Security and the N.C. Department of Information Technology to help mitigate any potential risks,” said Patrick Gannon, a spokesperson for the North Carolina board of elections.

    George McCue, deputy director of the Durham County board of elections, also said that VR Systems’ software was not the issue. “There was some investigation there, essentially no evidence came out of it indicating there was any problem with the product,” he said. “It appears to be user errors at different points in the process, between the setup of the computers and the poll workers using them.”

    All of this taken together ratchets up the stakes of the ongoing investigations into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, which promises to soak up more national attention this week as fired FBI Director James Comey appears before Congress to testify. If collusion can ultimately be demonstrated — a big if at this point — then the assistance on Russia’s part went beyond allegedly hacking email to serve a propaganda campaign, and bled into an attack on U.S. election infrastructure itself.

    Whatever the investigation into the Trump campaign concludes, however, it pales in comparison to the threat posed to the legitimacy of U.S. elections if the infrastructure itself can’t be secured. The NSA conclusion “demonstrates that countries are looking at specific tactics for election manipulation, and we need to be vigilant in defense,” said Schneier. “Elections do two things: one choose the winner, and two, they convince the loser. To the extent the elections are vulnerable to hacking, we risk the legitimacy of the voting process, even if there is no actual hacking at the time.”

    Throughout history, the transfer of power has been the moment of greatest weakness for societies, leading to untold bloodshed. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the greatest innovations of democracy.

    “It’s not just that [an election] has to be fair, it has to be demonstrably fair, so that the loser says, ‘Yep, I lost fair and square.’ If you can’t do that, you’re screwed,” said Schneier. “They’ll tear themselves apart if they’re convinced it’s not accurate.”

     

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