COOS COUNTY — Students with Oregon Connection Academy saw firsthand what happens after a tree gets cut down.
Twelve students from Coos and Douglas counties took a tour of the Roseburg Forest Products facility in North Bend on Thursday. The trip is one of at least six taken every year to different locations, an activity encouraged by ORCA, one of the state’s leading public online schools.
It was one of ORCA’s math teachers from Reedsport who came up with the idea to spend one of these trips at a forest products plant.
“The goal for these trips is to make it not only educational, but as socially appealing as possible since they are online students and this is one of the few times they get together with others from their area,” said Paula Leifer, fellow high school math teacher who has worked at ORCA for 10 years. “This trip was to give students a chance to see behind the scenes for what goes on after a tree gets chopped down, to give an education behind the business, how the factory works and gear questions to what kind of an education students would need to enter this workforce.”
Popularity with online schools like with ORCA, as well as Oregon Virtual Academy, have grown in recent years. Leifer attributed this to two main reasons.
The first was safety.
“An online school is another alternative and it’s because a lot of our bricks and mortar schools aren’t meeting goals of various family and student needs,” Leifer explained. “Bullying in student environments have pushed families online. A lot of these students needed a safer feel to their education.”
The second reason is potentially due to increasing awareness.
“A lot of our families five years ago didn’t know we existed,” she said.
What many may not know is that though ORCA is an online school, it is still a public school with teachers who are all public school certified with Oregon teaching licenses.
“But students are home to get education,” Leifer said. “They still do state exams and meet state requirements, just from their computer.”
Which is also why it is so important to get students out on field trips. In fact, it is a priority.
“The online community is a community in and of itself,” she said. “One of the things that is great with the online aspect is that students can communicate with a peer that is 300 miles away as if they were in a classroom together. Getting them out into their own community allows them to see other students near where they live.”
It also gives students a sense of “not being alone but instead part of a social community which can sometimes be missing from an online education.”
Of the Thursday field trip, Leifer reported that students had most of their questions at the end about how fast the machine loads wood chips onto the ships while parents in attendance asked how it worked shipping products to Japan to make paper.
“It went excellent,” she said. “It was a wonderful opportunity.”
PARKLAND, Fla. — The FBI received a tip last month that the suspect in the Florida school shooting had a "desire to kill" and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate, the agency said Friday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for the FBI's director to resign because of the missteps.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the shooting that killed 17 people Wednesday was a "tragic consequence" of the FBI's failure and ordered a review of the Justice Department's processes. He said it's now clear that the nation's premier law enforcement agency missed warning signs.
In more evidence that there had been signs of trouble with the suspect, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a Friday news conference that his office had received more than 20 calls about Nikolas Cruz in the past few years.
A person close to Cruz called the FBI's tip line on Jan. 5 and provided information about Cruz's weapons and his erratic behavior, including his disturbing social media posts. The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.
In a statement, the agency acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI's Miami office and investigated, but it was not. The startling admission came as the agency was already facing criticism for its treatment of a tip about a YouTube comment posted last year. The comment posted by a "Nikolas Cruz" said, "Im going to be a professional school shooter."
The FBI investigated the remark but did not determine who made it.
The 19-year-old Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, north of Miami.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency, which received an average of 2,101 calls to the tip line each day in 2017, was still reviewing its missteps on the January tip. He said he was "committed to getting to the bottom of what happened," as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.
"We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy," Wray said in the statement.
Florida's governor sharply criticized the federal law enforcement agency Friday, calling the FBI's failure to take action "unacceptable."
"Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn't going to cut it," Scott said. "... The families will spend a lifetime wondering how this could happen, and an apology will never give them the answers they desperately need."
The FBI is already under intense scrutiny for its actions in the early stages of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have seized on what they see as signs of anti-Trump bias.
The president has repeatedly slammed the agency and its leaders, writing on Twitter that its reputation was in "tatters."
On Friday evening, Trump visited a Florida hospital where he greeted medical staff and thanked the doctors, nurses and first responders who helped the shooting victims. He told reporters he also met with some of the victims who are still hospitalized. He later met with members of the Broward County Sheriff's office and local law enforcement, including Coconut Creek Police Officer Mike Leonard, who said he was the one who apprehended Cruz.
Also Friday, mourners gathered for the first funeral for a shooting victim, packing the Star of David chapel to remember 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. From outside the chapel, other mourners strained to hear the voices chanting Jewish prayers and remembering the star soccer player as having "the strongest personality." She was also remembered as a creative writer with a memorable smile.
At a later funeral for 18-year-old Meadow Pollack, her father's angered boiled over. With more than 1,000 mourners including Scott packed into Temple K'ol Tikvah, Andrew Pollack looked down at the plain pine coffin of his daughter and yelled, "You killed my kid!" referring to Cruz.
A day earlier, details of Wednesday's attack emerged, showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.
Cruz jumped out of an Uber car and walked toward building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. He slipped into the building, entered a stairwell and extracted a rifle from his bag, authorities said. He shot into four rooms on the first floor then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.
He ran to the third floor, where according to a timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.
Florida State Sen. Bill Galvano, who visited the third floor, said authorities told him it appeared that Cruz tried to fire point-blank out the third-floor windows at students as they were leaving the school, but the high-impact windows did not shatter.
The sheriff clarified Friday that Cruz never had a gas mask or smoke grenades during the attack.
Authorities have not described any specific motive, except to say that Cruz had been kicked out of the high school, which has about 3,000 students and serves an affluent suburb where the median home price is nearly $600,000. Students who knew him described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships.
WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary indictment, the U.S. special counsel accused 13 Russians on Friday of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, charging them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The federal indictment, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Trump to the White House. It also marks the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome.
The Russian organization was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the indictment says. He is a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.
Trump quickly claimed vindication Friday, noting in a tweet that the alleged interference efforts began in 2014 — "long before I announced that I would run for President."
"The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!" he tweeted.
But the indictment does not resolve the collusion question at the heart of the continuing Mueller probe, which before Friday had produced charges against four Trump associates. U.S. intelligence agencies have previously said the Russian government interfered to benefit Trump, including by orchestrating the hacking of Democratic emails, and Mueller has been assessing whether the campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.
The latest indictment does not focus on the hacking but instead centers on a social media propaganda effort that began in 2014 and continued past the election, with the goal of producing distrust in the American political process. Trump himself has been reluctant to acknowledge the interference and any role that it might have played in propelling him to the White House.
The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly participated in Russian meddling, or suggest that Trump campaign associates had more than "unwitting" contact with some of the defendants who posed as Americans during election season.
But it does lay out a vast and wide-ranging Russian effort to sway political opinion in the United States through a strategy that involved creating Internet postings in the names of Americans whose identities had been stolen; staging political rallies while posing as American political activists and paying people in the U.S. to promote or disparage candidates.
While foreign meddling in U.S. campaigns is not new, the indictment for an effort of this scope and digital sophistication is unprecedented.
"This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday. "The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed."
The 13 Russians are not in custody and not likely to ever face trial. The Justice Department has for years supported indicting foreign defendants in absentia as a way of publicly shaming them and effectively barring them from foreign travel.
The surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm that the indictment says sought to conduct "information warfare against the United States of America."
The company, among three Russian entities named in the indictment, had a multimillion-dollar budget and hundreds of workers divided by specialties and assigned to day and night shifts. According to prosecutors, the company was funded by companies controlled by Prigozhin.
Prigozhin said Friday he was not upset by the indictment.
"Americans are very impressionable people," he was quoted as saying by Russia's state news agency. They "see what they want to see."
Also Friday, Mueller announced a guilty plea from a California man who unwittingly sold bank accounts to Russians involved in the interference effort.
The election-meddling organization, looking to conceal its Russian roots, purchased space on computer servers within the U.S., used email accounts from U.S. internet service providers and created and controlled social media pages with huge numbers of followers on divisive issues such as immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Starting in April 2016, the indictment says, the Russian agency bought political ads on social media supporting Trump and opposing Clinton without reporting expenditures to the Federal Election Commission or registering as foreign agents. Among the ads: "JOIN our #HillaryClintonForPrison2016" and "Donald wants to defeat terrorism ... Hillary wants to sponsor it."
"They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump," the indictment states.
The indictment details contacts targeting three unnamed officials in the Trump campaign's Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn't say if any of them responded, and there's no allegation that any of the campaign officials knew they were communicating with Russians.
MEXICO CITY — A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook south and central Mexico Friday, causing people to flee swaying buildings and office towers in the country's capital, where residents were still jittery after a deadly quake five months ago.
Crowds gathered on Mexico City's central Reforma Avenue as well as on streets in Oaxaca state's capital, nearer the quake's epicenter, which was in a rural area close to Mexico's Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state. There were no immediate reports of deaths.
"It was awful," said Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, who was sitting on a bench outside her home in Mexico City's trendy Condesa district, too frightened to go back inside. "It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?"
She said she was still scared thinking of the Sept. 19 earthquake that caused 228 deaths in the capital and 141 more in nearby states. Many buildings in Mexico City are still damaged from that quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude of Friday's quake at 7.5 but later lowered it to 7.2. It said the epicenter was 33 miles northeast of Pinotepa in southern Oaxaca state. It had a depth of 15 miles.
Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of damages from the quake. The Oaxaca state government said via Twitter that only material damages were reported near Pinotepa and Santiago Jamiltepec, but that shelters were opened for those fleeing damaged homes.
The Mexico City Red Cross said via Twitter that the facade of a building collapsed in Mexico City's Condesa neighborhood, which was hit hard on Sept. 19. A video showed people walking through a dust cloud. But reporters at the scene later found no evidence of a collapse at the location given.
About an hour after the quake, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock also centered in Oaxaca caused tall buildings in Mexico City to briefly sway again.
USGS seismologist Paul Earle said Friday's earthquake appeared to be a separate temblor, rather than an aftershock of a Sept. 8 earthquake also centered in Oaxaca, which registered a magnitude of 8.2. The Sept. 19 earthquake struck closer to Mexico City.
The Sept. 8 quake killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighboring Chiapas, but was centered about 273 miles southwest of Friday's earthquake, Earle said.
In Mexico's capital, frightened residents flooded into the streets in Condesa, including one unidentified woman wrapped in just a towel, but there were no immediate signs of damage.
"I'm scared," said Rojas Huerta, recalling five months ago when buildings fell as she ran barefoot into the street. "The house is old."