Gusty winds could force power shut-offs for thousands in California

LOS ANGELES — More than 34,000 Californians could have their electricity intentionally shut off this week as cold, gusty winds increase the potential for fire danger throughout the state.

Southern California Edison over the weekend began warning about 9,100 customers in Los Angeles, Ventura and Kern counties that their power might be cut by Tuesday afternoon, said Gabriela Ornelas, a spokeswoman for the utility. Most of those customers are near Santa Clarita and Simi Valley.

In Central and Northern California, Pacific Gas and Electric began cutting power on Monday, said Deanna Contreras, a utility spokeswoman.

About 25,000 customers in portions of 22 counties — stretching from Santa Barbara County northward to Shasta County — could experience blackouts, she said.

The controversial “public safety power shut-offs” have become common in California in recent years, with the state’s largest utilities de-energizing hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses to prevent disaster as climate change drives record-setting wildfire seasons.

Electric utilities turn off power circuits when forecasts predict strong wind and dry conditions that could cause trees to fall on power lines or damage other electrical equipment, creating a spark.

Contreras said that any electrical lines shut off this week will be inspected by crews on foot or in helicopters to make sure they are safe to reenergize. Power is expected to be restored by Tuesday night in Central and Northern California, she said.

—Los Angeles Times

UNC-Chapel Hill cancels classes after police investigate reported suicides

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — UNC-Chapel Hill officials canceled classes Tuesday after police investigated multiple reports of suicide since the start of classes this fall.

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced the cancellations in a statement Sunday night, saying that on World Mental Health Day, the school was taking a moment to reflect on the seriousness of mental health issues.

“We are in the middle of a mental health crisis, both on our campus and across our nation, and we are aware that college-aged students carry an increased risk of suicide,” Guskiewicz said. “This crisis has directly impacted members of our community – especially with the passing of two students on campus in the past month.”

“At Carolina, we strive to put our students first in everything we do. We are living in a world that is constantly shifting and changing. We are facing major challenges and the ongoing toll this takes on our health cannot be underestimated. This cannot be solved by one person, or on one day, alone.”

Tuesday will be a Wellness Day in which students are encouraged to rest and check in with each other.

UNC-Chapel Hill police records show two calls made to 911 over the weekend, one regarding an attempted suicide, and another for a suicide. The university said investigations in both of those cases are ongoing.

Police call logs also show two reported suicides in September.

Police call logs only show what callers reported to 911, not what actually happened. That means the details that are publicly released for either of those cases could change after investigations are completed.

—The News & Observer

Italian church in LA vandalized with anti-colonization graffiti

LOS ANGELES — The delicate, gold-specked mosaic that hangs above the entrance to St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church on the edge of Chinatown was marred with bright red paint Monday morning in an apparent act of vandalism, officials said.

A small crowd had gathered at the building by noon, where detectives investigating the scene said it appeared to be linked to the day’s holidays, which include Indigenous Peoples Day and the former Columbus Day.

A fallen banner on the church’s front steps read, “STOP COLONIZING OUR LAND,” while graffiti on the sidewalk spelled out phrases including “Land Back,” “USA” and “Stolen Land.”

Explosions of red paint dotted the steps, doors and walls of the church on North Broadway, which was established in 1904 and holds Masses in English, Spanish and Italian.

Arturo Martinez said he first spotted the red paint around 8:15 a.m. on his way in to his daughter’s nearby clothing shop. He believed it happened sometime after 6 a.m. because a neighbor did not see signs of vandalism earlier.

“I think it’s all related to Columbus Day,” Martinez said, noting that St. Peter’s is an Italian church. “We know the history of Columbus, so they have taken a direct hit to Italy and what Columbus represents.”

Columbus was Italian, but his famous voyages were sponsored by Spain.

—Los Angeles Times

FBI raids home of Philly Proud Boys’ vice president over Capitol attack

PHILADELPHIA — The FBI raided the home of the vice president of the Proud Boys’ Philadelphia chapter on Friday, seizing his computer, phone and other electronics to gather information on the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, his lawyer said Monday.

Aaron Whallon Wolkind, 37, woke up around 4 a.m. Friday to more than a dozen federal agents, dressed in riot gear and accompanied by an armored vehicle and battering ram, swarming his Newark, Delaware, home, and ordering through a loudspeaker that he exit with his hands in the air, his lawyer Jonathon Moseley wrote in a court filing.

Wolkind exited and was handcuffed but not arrested or charged with any crimes. Agents “took all of his computer and computer devices and phones, including an old broken phone,” Moseley said. His girlfriend was also handcuffed but not arrested.

Moseley said he believes the search and seizure was to gather information in the case against Zach Rehl, the self-described president of the Philadelphia Proud Boys, whom Moseley also represents. Rehl was arrested in March on charges he conspired with other leading members of the organization to attack the Capitol and has been in custody in Philadelphia pending trial since.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer

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