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Explosive fires sweep through Southern California, driving 100,000 from their homes

Two major wildfires raged in Southern California on Tuesday, forcing almost 100,000 residents to flee the area.

Elias Marat

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Two major wildfires raged in Southern California on Tuesday as fierce winds continued to push the blazes toward populated zones, forcing almost 100,000 residents to flee the area under emergency evacuation orders.

The two fires in Orange County have already burned nearly 20,000 acres and doubled in size overnight, deluging the region in smoke and ash while further illustrating the unsparing nature of the 2020 fire season in California, which has seen massive wildfires rage across the west.

The Silverado Fire has already burned at least 11,200 acres after breaking out in the Santa Ana Mountains on Monday morning and is only 5 percent contained. The blaze near the city of Irvine has been fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, with the National Weather Service warning of gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

Roughly 750 firefighters have been dispatched to the region to fight the Silverado Fire. On Monday, two firefighters were severely burned while battling the fire, according to the Orange County Fire Authority. The firefighters, ages 26 and 31, remain in critical condition and were placed on ventilators after suffering second- and third-degree burns across half their bodies.

“This is tough for me, tough for all my firefighters and certainly for the families of my two injured firefighters,” OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said during a news conference. “They’re gravely injured … We’re doing all we can for them.”

While the cause of the blaze remains unclear, Southern California Edison is investigating whether its electrical equipment caused the fire, which broke out on state land. In a report to the state Public Utilities Commission, the company noted that a “lashing wire” connecting a telecommunications line to a support cable could have struck the 12,000-volt primary conducting line above, resulting in the fire breaking out.

Last month, the private utility company filed a report that noted its equipment was also part of an investigation into the cause of the Bobcat Fire, which consumed over 115,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest near Pasadena and remains active after burning for more than a month.

The Blue Ridge Fire later erupted on Monday in the Santa Ana Canyon, an infamous wind tunnel, and immediately spread from the west end of Corona toward Yorba Linda and the city’s Hidden Hills community, forcing the evacuation of around 5,000 homes.

By Tuesday morning, the blaze had grown to 8,000 acres and was 0 percent contained.

The ferocious Santa Ana winds – which saw gusts of 80 mph and even 96 mph in high-elevation zones such as the San Gabriel Mountains – are expected to die down on Tuesday afternoon, potentially offering an opportunity for firefighters to gain an upper hand on the out-of-control blazes.

The wind has also blanketed the streets of East L.A. and parts of the San Gabriel Valley with ash from the nearly-contained Bobcat fire. The National Weather Service issued a red flag across multiple counties through Tuesday afternoon.

“We have very strong winds and very low humidities, and that’s causing ideal conditions for a very strong Santa Ana event with high fire danger,” National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet told Los Angeles Times. “This is very typical for this time of year, but this one is very strong.”

Experts have warned that the worsening fire season in California and across the West is connected to climate change, with carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels directly leading to warmer and drier conditions.

In 2020 alone, California has seen fires burn over 4.1 million acres, destroying 10,488 homes and other structures and leading to the deaths of at least 31 people.

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Bizarre

Landlord Accused Of Kidnapping Tenants to Evict, Dumping Them in Cemetery

Justin MacLachlan

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Shockingly a New York landlord has been accused of kidnapping two tenants to evict them.

Shawn Douglas is accused of kidnapping two of his tenants from his property and dumping them in a cemetery 30 miles away, ABC News 10 reported.

The two tenants accused Douglas of kidnapping them while armed from their home at his property in the South End neighborhood of Albany, NY. Douglas is out on bail following the disturbing case.

In the police report, the two accusers state they were abducted, restrained with zip ties, and then covered with pillowcases before being dumped off in a cemetery in Ghent.

One of the victims was eventually able to free themselves from the restraints to seek help at a nearby house where they called the authorities on Douglas.

“He’s lucky they came out of that alive. They could have froze to death out there,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told NBC News 10.

New York, has had an existing ban on evictions which expires on May 1st due to the current pandemic. Following the lifting of the ban on evictions, many court cases are expected to attempt to evict tenants across the state.

The Albany Police Department has not released any additional details about the case at this time. But more people could be charged in connection with the alleged kidnapping according to ABC News 10.

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Bizarre

FBI ‘Aware Of’ Alleged Spotting of UFO by American Airlines Pilot Over New Mexico

Elias Marat

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New Mexico has long been considered the mecca for people interested in UFO incidents, with the southwestern state attracting tens of thousands of annual visitors to the alleged sites of close encounters in Roswell, as well as other sightings such as the Lonnie Zamora incident and the Aztec UFO crash.  

With such a rich history of alleged sightings of unidentified flying objects in New Mexico, it should come as no surprise that another close encounter has been reported – this time by a commercial airline pilot on Sunday afternoon.

At around 1 p.m. local time on Sunday, an unidentified aerial craft reportedly whooshed past American Airlines flight 2292 in the northern part of the state, startling the pilot who expressed his shock over the strange object flying overhead at a breathtaking rate of speed.

In a 15-second recording that was obtained by self-described “stealth chaser” Steve Douglass of Amarillo, Texas, and published on his blog Deep Black Horizon, the pilot can be heard excitedly communicating with air traffic controllers about the strange sighting he saw above the clouds during the passenger flight.

“Do you have any targets up here?” the pilot asks the Federal Aviation Administration traffic controllers.

“We just had something go right over the top of us,” he continues. “I hate to say this, but it looked like a long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing moving really fast, and went right over the top of us.”

However, the response from Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center can’t be heard due to local air traffic in Amarillo interfering with the channel, Douglass said. The blogger and author of “The Comprehensive Guide to Military Monitoring” also noted that there was no “no significant military aircraft presence was noted on ADS-B logs” and that the flight proceeded to land without incident at its destination in Phoenix, Arizona.

While the FAA has yet to comment on the strange encounter, American Airlines has confirmed that the recording of the radio communications with the pilot is fully authentic.

“Following a debrief with our Flight Crew and additional information received, we can confirm this radio transmission was from American Airlines Flight 2292 on Feb. 21,” a spokesman for the airliner wrote in an email to Fox News. The spokesman added that any additional inquiries should be addressed to the FBI.

However, the FBI response was equally opaque.

“The FBI is aware of the reported incident,” bureau spokesman Frank Connor wrote in an email. “While our policy is to neither confirm nor deny investigations, the FBI works continuously with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to share intelligence and protect the public.”

Furthermore, authorities at the nearby Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque reported that they had been alerted to the supposed encounter through the media, but officials at the base were not discussing the matter.

“We have no knowledge of this. We’re not aware of anything,” Lally Laksbergs told Wall Street Journal. Officials at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico have not yet responded to media inquiries.

However, Douglass has expressed doubt that the close encounter was with a military projectile.

“It was a Sunday. Basically, it’s a military’s day off,” Douglass told KVII News, where he works as a photographer. “When tests occur, the military notifies the FAA, aircraft are kept out of the area and their schedules and strict flight lanes as aircraft need to stay in to not interfere with these tests. That’s not what happened.”

“Whatever it was came fast, right at them and right over them, which gave them a big enough scare that they had to report it,” he added. “If the military can’t explain what it is, what’s flying out there that we don’t know about?”

In recent years, officials with the U.S. government have been increasingly vocal in its discussions of UFOs, which they prefer to refer to as unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.

In September 2019, U.S. Navy officials admitted that widely-circulating video footage captured by Navy pilots purportedly showing UFOs flying through the skies did, in fact, depict actual “unknown” objects that flew into U.S. airspace. The videos had been released months prior by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences (TTS), a private “UFO research organization” founded by former Blink 182 frontman Tom De Longe. 

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Activism

Akon Finally Breaks Ground On His Futuristic $10 Billion Solar Powered “Crypto City”

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The rapper, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Akon has been making significant progress on his development plans in Africa, which involve the creation of a futuristic city that runs on clean energy and cryptocurrency.

In January of last year, Akon revealed that his agreements with Senegal President Macky Sall were going forward, and a few months later it was announced that the engineering and consulting firm KE International was awarded a $6 billion contract to build the city. The company previously said it had already received $4 billion from investors for the first two phases of Akon City’s construction, giving the project a price tag of at least $10 billion. 

The project goes much further than just this one city and it has already begun to make an impact across the continent. In the short time since the deal was finalized last year, a large number of solar street lights, and solar home lighting units, have been installed across 14 African countries, according to Akon Lighting Africa.

The effort was made possible by a private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners including SOLEKTRA INT, SUMEC, and NARI.

Phase 1 of construction on the city is expected to be completed in 2023, and will include roads, a hospital, residences, hotels, a police station, a waste facility, a school, and a solar power plant. The entire city is expected to be finished around 2029. The city’s economy will be facilitated by Akon’s cryptocurrency “Akoin,” which runs on the Stellar blockchain. Stellar is a crypto ecosystem that includes its own cryptocurrency XLM, and also allows for the development of other projects, such as decentralized exchanges and additional currencies like Akoin. Banks around the world have also been considering using the Stellar blockchain for stablecoin deployment. 

Akon believes that cryptocurrency is the solution to the corruption problems that create widespread inequality in Africa because the blockchain provides a record that would make corruption extremely obvious if it were to take place. With an independent cryptocurrency, governments are unable to print money and devalue the currency, and the control of the money is decentralized.

In an interview with TMZ last year, Akon compared the vision that he has for the city with the fictional “Wakanda” from the movie Black Panther.

“This movie literally made an idea of what Africa could really be. It’s just ironic that I was already working on this before the movie came out, but it’s something that helped me a lot when I was trying to explain to explain to people what I was trying to do,” Akon said.

The city’s crypto-economic system will also solve many problems specific to the developing world, like instantly calculating conversation rates for currencies, which is often an obstacle because there are so many different regional currencies and methods of trade. In some cases, people even use prepaid cellphone minutes as a currency because it is easier to use and exchange than traditional currencies. Akon says that the Akoin wallet will allow users to trade between cryptocurrencies, fiat currencies, and cellphone minutes instantly without having to go through a major exchange using Atomic Swap technology. The app will also teach users to become more familiar with the technology in general.

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