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Hart children may have been abused before deadly California crash, authorities say



Norah West, a spokeswoman for DSHS, told NBC News that Child Protective Services had identified the three children who were killed — Markis, 19, and Jeremiah and Abigail, both 14 — as potential victims of alleged abuse or neglect.

Three other children — Hannah, 16, Devonte, 15, and Sierra, 12 — are presumed to be dead but are still the subject of an active search, California authorities said late Monday afternoon. They have said that the crash may have been intentional, based on the absence of skid marks and other indicators.

DSHS unsuccessfully tried two other times to get in touch with the family before the Clark County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for the three-bedroom split-level house on NW 389th Street in Woodland, about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon.


Clark County authorities said the search warrant sought information that not only could help explain the crash — including any possible suicide notes — but also could help investigators find the missing children. According to the search warrant, deputies took an iPhone and an Apple MacBook laptop computer from the home.

 The Hart family’s home in Woodland, Washington. Clark County, Washington, Assessor’s Office

Bruce DeKalb, a neighbor, called Child Protective Services about the family before the crash. He said he and his wife, Dana, often saw the children and were alarmed by how thin they were.

The DeKalbs told NBC affiliate KGW of Portland that Devonte would come to their door to ask for food, claiming that his mothers didn’t feed him and that they would withhold food as punishment.

“They were all small,” Bruce DeKalb told the station. “The one girl, who was 12, looked like she was 7. Both of her teeth were missing, front teeth.”

The DeKalbs said that another time, one of the girls showed up in the middle of the night trying to run away from home.

“She said that she wanted us to take her to Seattle and [her parents] weren’t treating her right and don’t make her go back,” Bruce DeKalb told KGW. He added that the Harts “told us what we wanted to hear, life went on for another eight months, and here we are today.”

A friend of the family, Max Ribner, disputed such characterizations, saying, “Sarah and Jen were the most loving, caring two moms that we could have ever seen on this Earth, caring for six beautiful adopted children.”

 Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs Devonte Hart, then 12, at a rally in Portland, Oregon, to support protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting of Michael Brown. Johnny Nguyen / AP file

The case has drawn international attention, partly because Devonte, who is black, was photographed in 2014 crying in the arms of a white police officer during a protest in Oregon over the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri. The image went viral.

Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum, the officer photographed hugging Devonte, who was then 12 years old, said in a statement that he was deeply saddened by the crash but that he was “uncomfortable speaking about the Hart family tragedy until the investigation is complete.”

The investigation now goes back to December 2010, when police in Alexandria, Minnesota, where the Hart family was then living, investigated a report from a school that one of the girls, who was then 6 years old, had bruises on her chest and her back. According to a criminal complaint, a teacher told officers that the girl reported that “Mom hit me.”

According to the complaint, Sarah Hart accepted responsibility for the bruises, telling officers that she bent the girl over the bathtub to spank her. She told officers that she and her wife almost never resorted to corporal punishment but that she “let her anger get out of control” over the girl’s behavior.

 A helicopter hovers near where a vehicle, visible at lower right, plunged about 100 feet off a cliff along Highway 1 near Mendocino, California on March 27. California Highway Patrol via AP

Hart pleaded guilty in early 2011 to misdemeanor domestic assault and served a year’s probation. Neither Hart appears to have any other criminal record.

Property records show that the Harts bought the Washington house last May. Dana DeKalb, their neighbor, told KGW that they weren’t especially neighborly.

Even though the family had been in the NW 389th Street home for almost a year, Dana DeKalb met Jennifer Hart only twice, and “she wasn’t friendly at all,” she told KGW.

When she heard about the crash, DeKalb said, “my gut was, it was them.”

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Ireland’s health service shuts down IT systems over ‘significant ransomware attack’ | World News



Ireland’s health service has closed down its computer systems after what it described as a “significant ransomware attack”.

The Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had shut down its entire IT network as a “precaution.”

It said COVID-19 vaccinations were not affected by the attack.

“There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems,” the HSE said on Twitter.

“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us fully assess the situation with our own security partners.”

It added: “We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available.

“Vaccinations not affected are going ahead as planned.”

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Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News



Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

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Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News



Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

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