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Florida firefighting helicopter crashes during training exercise

Four people were on board at the time of the crash, officials said. One body was recovered Tuesday night.

LEESBURG, Fla. — A firefighting helicopter with four people on board crashed Tuesday near an airport in central Florida, killing at least one person, officials said.

The helicopter crashed into a marsh near Leesburg International Airport during a training exercise around 4 p.m. ET, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a news release.

One body was recovered Tuesday night and no survivors had been found, Leesburg Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post.

“The crash appears to be a total loss,” the post said.

Hours after the crash, rescue crews were still trying to get to the wreckage to see if there were any survivors, Leesburg police Lt. Joe Iozzi said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Officials did not immediately release additional information.

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San Jose approves Google’s gigantic and controversial new downtown campus

The 80-acre Downtown West development could begin construction as early as next year

After first proposing it in 2017, Google has received unanimous approval from the San Jose City Council to move forward with its Downtown West development plan, CNBC reports. The company and city have reached an agreement to develop around 80 acres of land in downtown San Jose, California that will also serve as a mixed-use residential, retail, and open space for Google employees and the city’s residents.

According to the proposed development agreement (PDF), Google will construct 7.3 million square feet of office space and 4,000 housing units, 1,000 of which are being explicitly set aside as affordable housing. Along with 50,000 square feet devoted to retail and cultural space, the company also plans to build hotel rooms and “short-term residences” for visiting corporate guests. Google detailed some of these plans as renders in late 2020, but this is just a portion of its West Coast real estate expansion. The company’s futuristic new developments in Mountain View and Sunnyvale are already under construction, and a huge New York office space in Hudson Square is also underway.

Image: Google (YouTube)

Construction on Downtown West could start as early as next year but could take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to be completed. The timing of the project’s approval is complicated by how the pandemic has influenced the company’s general thinking on work. CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced a new flexible work policy for post-pandemic life that expects 60 percent of Google employees to only spend three days in the office, with some 20 percent of the company’s staff to work fully remotely from home. It seems reasonable to wonder if a dramatic expansion of office space makes sense if Google plans to use less of it than ever.

There’s also the question of how much Google’s proposed affordable housing will actually help. The company committed $1 billion in 2019 to solving the California housing problem it played a role in creating, but price always remains a concern. San Jose, like large swaths of California, is not exactly a cheap place to live. Last year, the city was rated the hardest city in the US to buy a home, with a median home price of $1.1 million. The situation is equally bad for renters.

In 2019, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLHIC) found that San Jose was also severely lacking in affordable housing. For the 57,375 renter households the NLIHC counted, there were also only 16,825 affordable and available rental homes. With those numbers in mind, Google’s addition of 1,000 affordable homes seems minor.

Activists and San Jose residents staged protests at the very first Council meeting to discuss selling the land to Google in 2018. Their basic worry was that Google’s development could price out current tenants in the area. The San Jose Sharks hockey team also threatened to sue Google and the city of San Jose if it wasn’t guaranteed parking for the next-door SAP Arena. Google ultimately agreed to 2,850 parking spaces and offered the team final approval on other infrastructure changes, according to The San Jose Mercury News.

Google has made concessions and adjustments along the way to approval, and at least claims to want Downtown West to be a part of San Jose, rather than just some extension of its campus. How that ultimately shakes out will depend on how the development affects San Jose’s most vulnerable, rather than Google’s own workers.

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WhatsApp sues Indian government over new internet rules

The messaging app WhatsApp has sued the Indian government seeking to defend its users’ privacy and stop new rules that would require it to make messages “traceable” to external parties.

WhatsApp filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the Delhi High Court. It is arguing that the government rules regarding the traceability of messages are unconstitutional and undermine the fundamental right to privacy.

The company currently uses end-to-end encryption for its messaging service, which encrypts messages in such a way that no one apart from the sender and receiver are able to read the messages sent between them.

The lawsuit follows sweeping regulations for technology companies announced in February that hold them more accountable for content shared on their platforms. A 90-day grace period for complying with the rules ended Wednesday.

“Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that a requirement to “trace” private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

“WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people’s personal messages and we will continue to do all we can within the laws of India to do so.”

The new regulations require internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter to erase content authorities deem to be unlawful and to help with police investigations, including identifying the originators of so-called “mischievous information.”

The lawsuit is part of a struggle between some of the world’s biggest technology companies and governments grappling with disinformation, hate speech and other troubles.

Singapore in 2019 passed a law requiring technology platforms to issue corrections of false information if the authorities order them to do so, or face hefty fines. In Britain, tech companies could also face heavy fines if they fail to prevent the spread of illegal and harmful content, such as terrorism or child pornography.

Nikhil Pahwa, a New Delhi-based digital rights activist said the WhatsApp lawsuit is an important case for India and the world.

“What happens in India is what governments across the world would see and like to implement,” Pahwa said.

If WhatsApp loses its case, it either may choose to leave the market and lose over 500 million users, or redesign its platform to make messages traceable, he said.

“The introduction of the new IT rules can essentially kill the entire idea of end-to-end encryption in India. This will potentially compromise all its users across and not just India,” he said.

WhatsApp said in a statement posted on its website that traceability breaks end-to-end encryption and would “severely undermine the privacy of billions of people who communicate digitally.”

“Through such an approach, innocent people could get caught up in investigations, or even go to jail, for sharing content that later becomes problematic in the eyes of a government, even if they did not mean any harm by sharing it in the first place,” WhatsApp said.

It reiterated that its team responds to valid law enforcement requests, providing them with limited categories of information available that is consistent with relevant laws and policies.

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Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams Wasn’t Honest About Mental Health

Story Credit: EONLINE.COM

Destiny’s Child’s star Michelle Williams posted audio from her candid chat with Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland, during which she admitted she should have been more “truthful” about her mental health.

Michelle Williams is taking the time to check in with fellow Destiny’s Child stars Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland.

On Wednesday, May 26, Michelle shared audio to Instagram from her recent conversation with the two other performers. During the chat, Michelle—who is promoting her new book, Checking In—got candid about her mental health journey.

“It’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to tell somebody you’re not OK,” she shared. “Because honestly, I should have done that with y’all. I’ve been open about a lot of things that I never was real truthful about how I really was.”

Michelle continued, “Even though y’all have proven to be safe friends, safe sisters, sometimes people have to know, no, you’re not going to be looked at differently. You can just say, ‘Y’all, I’ve been sad a little too long.’ It amplifies one’s bravery and gives them courage—like, oh, it’s OK.”

Kelly agreed, and expressed her belief that “humility” should be an important element of friendships.

“You have to allow yourself to hold a safe place in a safe space for all friendships to be able to check in,” the 40-year-old “Dilemma” singer said. “It’s a blessing to be able to have that. When it’s your person, it’s nothing that they’ll judge you for. It’s nothing you can’t tell them, and I think that that’s the greatest thing Destiny’s Child has ever given me, is my gift of friendship for you ladies.”

Beyoncé, 39, was right there with her, adding, “And I just know Kelly and I feel so honored that we are now your safe place where you can express any and everything, and we know that you are that for us, and you’ve always been that for us. So we’re just happy to be along this journey, and happy to witness the birth of a new chapter.”

READ MORE…

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Plan to Make Their Long-Distance Relationship Work

J.Lo and Ben Affleck have a solution for how they’re going to make the most of their bicoastal lifestyles during their newfound romance, as she lives in Miami and he in L.A. Read on for the game plan.

There aren’t enough days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year for Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck to be together.

The formerly-engaged stars have rekindled their romance and, this time, they’re trying to make their long distance kind of love last.

J.Lo, 51, and Ben, 48, have traveled around the country the past month as they make up for lost time. After meeting up in Los Angeles and Montana, the couple spent the past four days in Miami, according to a source.

The Justice League actor, who lives in Los Angeles near the three kids he shares with ex Jennifer Garnertook an overnight flight to Florida to be with Jennifer over the weekend.

The pair was spotted hitting the gym this week, before they nestled up in a Mediterranean-style Miami estate that’s valued at $18 million (and yes, we have pics inside the 11-bedroom palace). He has since returned to La La Land.

Now that Bennifer 2.0 is here to stay, the insider shares exclusively with E! News how Ben and Jen plan to make their long-distance relationship work.

“They have no problem meeting up wherever,” the source explains, noting that “things are going very well” so far with their bicoastal setup.

“Ben is happy to be a part of her life in Miami, where they spent a lot of time at home being low-key and relaxing together,” the source continues. “They have had a great few days that feels effortless and easy.”

The plan is for Jennifer to come out to L.A. to see him as her schedule allows. The insider notes, “They are taking it one day at a time, but aren’t letting distance be too much of an obstacle.”

A second source confirms that the A-listers spent the weekend together and are trying to “work around” family and work commitments.

J.Lo shares custody of her 13-year-old twins, Max and Emme, with ex-husband Marc Anthony in Miami, but no word on if the teens have met up with Ben recently.

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Biden asks intelligence agencies to ‘redouble’ efforts to determine coronavirus origins

Strory Credit: NBC News

 

The intelligence community has been unable to reach a “definitive conclusion” on whether the virus came from contact with an animal or from a laboratory accident, Biden said.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has asked the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus, after new reports raised questions about whether it spread from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The intelligence community has been unable to reach a “definitive conclusion” on the origins of the virus and is conflicted on whether it came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident, Biden said in a statement.

“As of today, the U.S. intelligence community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” the president said.

He said he asked national security adviser Jake Sullivan in March to prepare a report for him on what was known about the origins of the virus. Biden said the findings, which he received earlier this month, concluded that while two elements of the intelligence community “lean” toward the explanation that the virus came from animal contact, another leans toward the laboratory explanation.

Biden said each assessment has “low or moderate confidence” and that “the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.” He said he has asked for further investigation.

“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” his statement said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, did not commit to making the new report public. She said she also could not share what specific questions Biden has for China and said that the administration was also not ready to commit to saying whether China would face any punishment depending on the review’s findings.

The president’s comments come after a U.S. intelligence report said three lab workers in Wuhan fell ill in November 2019, before the first coronavirus cases were reported, adding to circumstantial evidence for a hypothesis that the virus could have escaped from a lab in the city.

Biden also said he has directed his administration to seek further information from China.

“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” his statement said.

Despite repeated questions from reporters, Jean-Pierre insisted Wednesday that nothing had changed internally to trigger the additional 90-day review.

“Nothing has changed,” she said. “This is just a continuation of what the president has been focused on.”

Top administration officials have been speaking out more strongly about the need for China and the World Health Organization to more fully cooperate in investigations over the virus’s origins after The Wall Street Journal was first to report on the lab workers who fell ill.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told a WHO ministerial meeting Tuesday that there must be a “transparent” follow-up probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House adviser for Covid-19 response, said Tuesday that it is a “critical priority” for the U.S. to uncover the truth.

“It is our position that we need to get to the bottom of this, and we need a completely transparent process from China; we need the WHO to assist in that matter,” he said. “We don’t feel like we have that now.”

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Transit employees among 9 dead in shooting at San Jose rail yard

Stroy Credit: NBC News

A public transit employee, Samuel Cassidy, opened fire on co-workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority before taking his own life, officials said.

public transit employee opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday, killing more than a half-dozen people before taking his own life, authorities said.

Calls of shots fired came about 6:34 a.m. PT near 100 W. Younger Ave. in downtown San Jose, drawing a large law enforcement response, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.

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Law enforcement officers respond to the scene of a shooting at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) facility on May 26, 2021, in San Jose, Calif.Noah Berger / AP

The shooter was identified as Samuel Cassidy, an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), law enforcement sources said. He shot and killed himself at the scene, officials said.

Eight people were killed, not including the shooter, and one person was critically wounded, sheriff’s Deputy Russell Davis said.

The victims were identified Wednesday by the Medical Examiner-Coroner. Paul Delacruz Megia, 42, Taptejdeep Singh, 36, Adrian Balleza, 29, Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, 35, Timothy Michael Romo, 49, Michael Joseph Rudometkin, 40, Abdolvahab Alaghmandan, 63, and Lars Kepler Lane, 63, were killed in the attack.

Samuel Cassidy was identified as the shooter who opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard.
Samuel Cassidy was identified as the shooter who opened fire on co-workers at a Northern California rail yard.Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

The early morning attack came at a particularly busy time at the transit hub as overnight workers overlap with, and passed off their duties to, colleagues checking in for early-morning shifts.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said her deputies and San Jose police officers arrived quickly after the initial 911 calls.

“I know for sure that when the suspect knew that law enforcement was there, he took his own life,” Smith said.

“The deputy sheriffs … the officers from San Jose PD ran into the building when shots were being fired and I know that it saved many lives.”

Citing an “active shooter,” deputies told the public at 7:12 a.m. PT to steer clear of the neighborhood, about 50 miles south of downtown San Francisco.

“This is a horrific day for our city, and it is a tragic day for the VTA family, and our heart pains for the families and the co-workers because we know so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Investigators found “several possible suspicious devices” on VTA property, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The bomb squad responded to render the scene safe, and the FBI and ATF also responded. The sheriff’s office did not say if the items were bombs. Detectives were processing the scene Wednesday evening.

The dead suspect is believed to be the only shooter involved, according to officials.

“Public safety is assured at this point,” Davis said.

About the same time gunfire erupted at the VTA yard, San Jose firefighters rushed to a home about 10 miles away that was engulfed by flames, officials said.

That home, near 1100 Angmar Ct., is the suspect’s, law enforcement sources said. Investigators believe there was ammunition inside the home and firefighters smelled an accelerant when they arrived, sources said.

“We’re trying to figure out, exactly, if there’s a connection” between the fire and shooting, Davis said.

The Younger Avenue address is a light rail yard of the VTA, which provides bus, rail and shuttle services to the booming Bay Area suburb and technology hub.

Davis called the shooting scene a VTA “control center,” which is a “hub that stores multiple VTA trains and a maintenance yard as well.”

The shooting happened “on the VTA light rail yard but it did not happen in the operations control center,” VTA Board Chairman Glenn Hendricks said.