VENTURA COUNTY ENGULFED IN STATE'S 3RD MAJOR WILDFIRE OF 2017: Steve Andruszkewicz and his neighbor Joseph Ruffner returned to their Faria Beach Colony homes just north of Ventura on Thursday to discover the flames that appeared to have spared the houses were threatening them once again. "I thought we were done yesterday," Ruffner said, adding he and his family returned to their home in the morning to see a wall of fire that seemed to be a safe distance away. But then it moved in, spraying hot embers onto the neighborhood. "It's coming back to burn what it didn't burn yesterday," he said. Firefighters urged people to leave the beachfront community, where electricity was out. "We're leaving," Andruszkewicz said as he and his wife sprayed palm trees with water from garden hoses first. Ruffner said he was staying put. "I bought a generator yesterday so at least I can see on TV what's going on," he said.
MORE DETAILS EMERGE ON NC PRISON ATTACKS, DESPITE EFFORTS TO WITHHOLD INFORMATION: Citing security reasons, prison officials refused to release surveillance video of the attack on Callahan or information about staffing at Bertie on the day she died. They did not allow reporters to tour the prison and refused to make officials at Bertie available for an interview. But more than a dozen current and former Bertie officers told the Observer that the prison had been dangerously short-staffed for a long time. They also disclosed previously unreported details about the prison and what happened there on April 26, the day Callahan was killed. Only four of Callahan’s officers were working that day, according to a Department of Labor report. That’s half the recommended number, several current and former officers said. “The inmates pretty much understood that they could take over because we didn’t have enough staff,” said former officer Derrick Matthews, who until recently worked on Callahan’s unit. “They’d say things like, ‘We know we have the upper hand.’ And then you think, ‘They’re pretty much right.’ ”
MECKLENBURG COUNTY REFUSES TO PAY RANSOM TO DATABASE HACKER, DRAWING MORE ATTACKS: A North Carolina county says hackers have tried new attacks on its computer systems after it refused to pay them a ransom for frozen data. Mecklenburg County manager Dena Diorio sent an email Thursday to county employees advising them that hackers were targeting the county primarily through fraudulent email attachments. No further damage to the systems was reported. Diorio said the county was disabling employees' ability to open attachments generated through Dropbox and Google Docs. She advised staff to generally limit its use of attachments overall and try to conduct business by phone or in person when possible. County manager Dena Diorio said late Wednesday that the county will not pay the $23,000 demanded by the hacker, who is believed to be foreign. Diorio said it would have taken days to restore the county's computer system even if officials paid off the person controlling the ransomware, so the decision won't significantly lengthen the timeframe.
DEMOCRATS IN VIRGINIA DEMAND NEW HOUSE ELECTION FOR PIVOTAL SEAT DUE TO BALLOT PROBLEMS: Virginia Democrats have asked a federal judge to order a new election for a contested House of Delegates seat. Republican Robert Thomas beat Democrat Joshua Cole by 82 votes in the Fredericksburg-area 28th District race. Election officials have said some voters were given the wrong ballots. The Washington Post reports that Democrats on Wednesday filed an amended complaint to a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order preventing authorities from certifying results. Three Democratic candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates have filed for recounts. If current results hold, Republicans would have a 51-49 advantage in the chamber. The GOP had a 32-seat majority heading into the November election.
STAUNCH REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN WHO ASKED FEMALE STAFFERS TO CARRY HIS BABIES RESIGNS: Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said Thursday he is resigning next month after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers. The eight-term lawmaker, a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion, said in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff. Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy. Franks says he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years, and “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.” He said he regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace” with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.