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PG&E Power Outages Affect Millions in Northern California

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  • Pacific Gas & Electric is cutting power to 750,000 customers in Northern California, impacting close to 2.5 million people. 
  • Current severe dry winds have increased the chances of wildfires, so PG&E is turning off power to lessen their risk of contributing to one.
  • Californians are already upset with the company, which was found responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people.
  • But frustrations are now even higher as the outages have already caused car accidents, closed businesses, and could potentially cost the state billions in lost revenue.

PG&E Starts Outages

Millions in Northern California are being impacted by widespread planned power outages which have triggered gas shortages, car accidents, and long-term economic consequences.

Pacific Gas and Electric anticipates that close to 750,000 customers will be impacted by the outages, which started on Wednesday morning. A total of 2.5 million people in the states are expected to feel its effects. 

PG&E is executing these “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” to prevent wildfires in the area. Severe hot, dry winds are currently making their way through Northern California, increasing the chances of a fire. PG&E was found responsible for 2018’s Camp Fire which killed 85 people. Anticipating this, the company filed for bankruptcy in January, predicting facing $30 billion in damages from both the Camp Fire, as well as other fires in 2017.

The outages could last for several days, with the mayor of San Jose warning it could last a week. People in areas affected by the shutoffs are already waiting in long lines at the grocery store and gas stations, and even seeing some stations run out of fuel. Several schools and businesses have closed as a result of the outages as well, leaving people without work. 

Several car crashes related to the outages have also been reported. Traffic lights are not working, making major intersections more vulnerable to accidents. The city of Santa Rosa said that multiple collisions have occurred at intersections without power, with at least five resulting in injuries.

Concerned customers were also left in the dark when PG&E’s website crashed on Wednesday. Over 12 hours later, they created an entirely new site just devoted to the shutoffs. 

Economic Impact of Power Outrage

Perhaps the most long-lasting consequence of these outages is the dame done to the economy. According to Michael Wara, the Director of the Stanford Woods Institute, this could cost anywhere between $65 million to $2.5 billion in economic losses.

Other reports indicate that the number could be closer to $1 billion. PG&E also says customers will not be reimbursed for losses during the outages.

Money is also only part of what is at stake for those in Northern California. The area is home to massive hubs of scientific, medical and technological research. 

In an email to the New York Times, one researcher at the University of California, Berkeley said valuable research is at risk. 

“Many friends and colleagues barely have enough emergency power to keep freezers cold and incubators running,” graduate student Julia Torvi wrote.

“These two things hold millions of dollars of research, tens of years of effort, their contents being irreplaceable.”

Frustrations With PG&E

Frustrations with PG&E are high among residents. Several leaders in California have spoken up about the blackout and condemned PG&E for this practice. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-11) called it “completely unacceptable.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that PG&E should be “held responsible for the maintenance of their power lines.”

The public outrage extends even further. A PG&E office in Oroville closed after its front door was vandalized. Reports say that it appeared someone had thrown eggs at it sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

A PG&E truck was also struck by a bullet on Tuesday night. The California Highway Patrol is still investigating the incident. A bullet hit the passenger window. The driver was not injured. 

In a statement Wednesday, Sumeet Singh, the Vice President of PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Program released a statement sympathizing with customers.

“We understand that this power shutoff is difficult for our customers and communities. Please check on your neighbors, friends and family and know that we will work safely, and quickly as possible, to restore power across the region,” the statement read. “Our meteorological and operations teams are actively monitoring the weather and this evolving situation, and we are working directly with state and local agencies to help our customers and communities through this event safely.”

Currently, they have been able to restore power back to 50,000 residents. 

See what others are saying: (San Francisco Chronicle) (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times)

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Ring Camera Hacker Harasses 8-Year-Old Girl Through Speaker

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  • An 8-year-old girl was taunted by a male voice when a Mississippi family’s Ring security camera was hacked.
  • The hacker played eerie music and encouraged the child to use a racial slur and destroy her room. 
  • Ring has claimed the incident didn’t occur because of a breach in their security system but rather because the family didn’t set up two-factor authentication. 
  • Several more Ring camera hackings have been reported in the past few weeks.

Camera Compromised

A hacker tapped into a Mississippi family’s home security camera last week and used the speaker feature to talk to an 8-year-old girl.

The video footage shows the child, Alyssa LeMay, walking into her bedroom after hearing eerie music from inside. Blaring from the camera’s speaker is Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a song that was famously featured in the horror movie “Insidious.”

As Alyssa paces around trying to identify the source of the noise, the music stops and a voice comes from the camera, pushing her to say the n-word. 

“C’mon girl, can you say the magic word? N—–,” the voice says to Alyssa, who is white. 

She repeatedly asks out loud who is talking to her.

“I’m your best friend,” the voice responds. “I’m Santa Claus.” 

At one point the hacker also tries to coax Alyssa to destroy her room, telling her, “You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”

The little girl screams for her mother, who was out of the house at the time running an errand. Her father was home and rushed to the room to unplug the camera. 

Security Precautions Gone Wrong

Ashley LeMay, Alyssa’s mother, was horrified when she saw what happened. The 27-year-old had bought a pair of Ring cameras to install in the bedrooms of her four children, per a fellow mother’s recommendation. 

Ring’s indoor cameras have elevated features intended for security, including night-vision and a two-way talk system. LeMay made the purchase on Black Friday, hoping to help her children feel safe as she works overnight shifts in a hospital. 

The camera initially was a positive asset to the home, but just a few days after its installation, on Dec. 4, that sense of safety was abruptly violated.  

“I did the exact opposite of adding another security measure,” LeMay told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I put them at risk and there’s nothing I can do to really ease their mind. I can’t tell them I know who it is. I can’t tell them that they’re not going to show up at our house in the middle of the night.”   

When asked about the incident, Ring released a statement to WMC5, claiming that the hack wasn’t a result of a breach in their security system but rather it happened because two-factor authorization was not set up by the family.

“Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services,” the company said. “As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords.”

LeMay felt frustrated by Ring’s lack of answers when she contacted them.

“To be honest, it felt like they were trying to place the blame on me,” she told The Washington Post. “As a mother, I already feel guilty enough that I let this happen to my family… There’s just no need for that.”

This is not the first time that Ring’s security cameras have been hacked into. There have been multiple reports of security breaches in the past few weeks, from Georgia to Florida to Texas

Ring states that their mission is to “reduce crime in neighborhoods,” but the digital age has brought in new ways for hackers to virtually break into a home and cross lines.

“What’s so scary to us is that this person did not care that it was a young child,” LeMay said to The Washington Post.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vice) (ABC)

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Virginia Man Gifts $12,000 Worth of Toys to Low-Income Children

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  • Virginia local Adam Armstrong gifted $12,000 worth of toys to children living in low-income apartment complexes.
  • His first stop was Harris Gardens, where he lived as a young man about 15-years ago after serving a short sentence in jail.
  • After making a successful life for himself, Armstrong decided he wanted to give back.

Virginia Man Returns to His Roots

Adam Armstrong, a 35-year-old Virginia native, returned to his old apartment complex in Harrisonburg to hand out early Christmas presents to the children who live there now. 

Armstrong rolled up to Harris Gardens Apartments in a moving truck on Dec. 7 wearing jeans and a Santa hat. When he arrived, he handed out bikes, stuffed animals, Nerf guns, and other toys. The total cost of the truckload was about $12,000, he told The Washington Post

Armstrong once resided in that same low-income complex about 15 years ago. He went to live there after serving a three-month stint in jail for selling marijuana when he was 18.

After his release, Armstrong decided that he needed to turn his life around. He went on to get into several business endeavors, including working as a loan officer and buying and flipping houses. 

Once he had saved some money, he decided he wanted to give back. He has been donating toys to various organizations since 2013. 

“I remember government housing and a lot of poverty, crimes, drugs, violence and things of that nature,” Armstrong told NBC News about Harrisonburg. “Every time I see kids, I know it’s not their fault where they are.”

Giving Back to Children

When Armstrong approached Harris Gardens property manager Sara Lewis-Weeks and told her he was looking to donate toys to the kids, she was skeptical. 

She had seen a lot of people make false promises of this nature before and wasn’t sure that he would follow through, she told the Post

But sure enough, Armstrong made good on his promise and handed out gifts to about 50 children and their parents.

“He didn’t miss anybody,” Lewis-Weeks told NBC. “His heart was truly in this.”

After Armstrong visited Harris Gardens, he visited three more low-income developments nearby, and afterward, he donated the leftover toys to the Salvation Army. 

“The kids were so innocent and sweet,” Armstrong told the Post. “They’d say, ‘Thank you.’ Some would be shy or reluctant. You can’t put a price on looking at these kids’ happy faces.”

See what others are saying: (NBC) (Washington Post) (WHSV)

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Houston Man Saves Neighbor’s Dog After Leash Gets Caught in Moving Elevator

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  • Johnny Mathis, a man from Houston, Texas, saved his neighbor’s dog on Monday after its leash got caught in closed elevator doors.
  • Mathis sprung into action, removing the leash from the dog’s neck as the elevator moved to a higher floor.
  • Apartment security cameras captured video of the incident, which Mathis posted to his Twitter account.
  • The video has received much attention online, with many praising Mathis and some criticizing the dog owner.

A Heroic Act

A Houston man rescued his neighbor’s small dog on Monday after its leash got caught in a moving elevator. A video of the incident, caught by their apartment’s security footage, has now gone viral.

In the video, 27-year-old Johnny Mathis can be seen exiting the elevator as a woman and her Pomeranian walk past him toward its doors. Mathis rounds the corner but backpedals when he sees that the dog was left behind.

He takes tentative steps toward the dog and then quickly lunges into action when he realizes the leash around the dog’s neck was stuck in the lift.   

“Instinct just kicked in, I just grabbed that leash,” Mathis told CNN. “There was so much fur, that’s why it took me a bit to get that lever off of the collar and when I did, I let go, you could see that leash just shoot off to the top of the elevator.”

Mathis recounted the story on his Twitter account, where he also posted the security footage and described the dog owner’s panic. 

“She started screaming as soon as the door shut and was bawling her eyes out when it came back down,” he wrote in another post. “She thought the worst.”

Mathis told CNN that the woman was very grateful but visibly shaken when she returned to the ground floor. 

“I think she just said ‘thank you’ and we hugged but she was just so overcome with emotion,” he said.

He expressed his gratitude that he was in the right place at the right time, and hopes that the situation can be taken as a lesson.

Online Response

Mathis’s post of the video has been viewed millions of times and he has received much praise in response.

Some have hurled a lot of criticism at the dog owner, accusing her of negligence. 

Mathis defended the unidentified woman in another post on Wednesday night. 

Others have also been more forgiving of the dog owner, calling it an honest mistake.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Fox News)

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