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Mendocino County Today: Friday, Sep 4, 2015

MUCH OF CALIFORNIA'S NORTH COAST went quiet yesterday, in terms of internet and cell service, due to a fiber optic cable being cut along the 101 corridor. Early reports indicated the cut was near Hopland and was an act of vandalism.


Some coverage from various sources...

SINCE AVA WORLD HEADQUARTERS, in downtown Boonville, was digitally severed from the rest of the world, today's MCT will be tardy and abbreviated, and we apologize for that.

Here's the latest from the Press Democrat:

SABOTAGE?  A MAJOR FIBER CABLE maintained by AT&T was severed near Hopland Thursday morning, shutting down telephone service and the internet in most of Mendocino and Humboldt counties and areas of Sonoma and Lake counties. Several thousand businesses were unable to process credit cards at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, bringing the tourist-based economy to a halt.

AT&T announced late Thursday that the crucial line had been deliberately cut.

The line, which runs along the railroad tracks north of Hopland parallel to Highway 101 was fully repaired by early Friday morning by a crew working all day Thursday and much of Thursday night.

* * *


Fiber Optic Cable Cut Patched @ 4:00 am

911 System, Internet Down Total Of 18 Hours

AT&T reported the cut fiber-optic line near Henry Station Road on the US-101 corridor was patched @ 4:00 am with the Mendocino Community Network posting this morning @ 6:57 am: "It appears that service was restored to MCN Fusion circuits around 6 AM this morning. If you are still experiencing issues with either phone or DSL service, please call the MCN office at 937-1444."

So the outage was 18-20 hours long - much shorter than last year's two-day outage brought about when a truck snagged an overhead fiber optic line on Comptche-Ukiah Road.

According to the Press Democrat, the fiber optic cable in Hopland was severed by a vandal: "AT&T, which owns the cable, said late Thursday that investigators determined the damage was caused by vandalism.
'Vandalism is a serious matter that affects public safety and the community at large,' said Steven Ramirez, a regional spokesperson for AT&T. 'We are cooperating with local law enforcement on an investigation of the matter. We apologize for this inconvenience.'


This article was posted to the "ARS Technica" web page June 16th of this year - two weeks later a fiber optic cable was cut in the Sacramento area: "The Federal Bureau of investigation is stumped, and it's seeking the public's assistance in nabbing those responsible for severing fiber-optic cable throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In one of the latest incidents, happening in the Oakland suburb of Walnut Creek, cable responsible for landline and wireless AT&T customers was severed on June 9. AT&T is offering a $1,000 reward for info leading to the conviction of those responsible. At least 10 incidents, beginning last July in Berkeley, have knocked out various California telecom services.
Here are the dates and locations, according to the FBI:

  • 7/6/2014, 9:44pm near 7th St. and Grayson St. in Berkeley.
  • 7/6/2014 11:39pm near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont.
  • 7/7/2014 12:24am near Jones Road and Iron Horse Trail in Walnut Creek.
  • 7/7/2014 12:51am near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont.
  • 7/7/2014 2:13am near Stockton Ave. and University Ave. in San Jose.
  • 2/24/2015 11:30pm near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in Fremont.
  • 2/24/2015 11:30pm near Niles Canyon Blvd. and Alameda Creek in Fremont.
  • 6/8/2015 11:00pm. near Danville Blvd. and Rudgear Road in Alamo.
  • 6/8/2015 11:40pm near Overacker Ave and Mowry Ave in Fremont.
  • 6/9/2015 1:38pm near Jones Road and Parkside Dr. in Walnut Creek.

'Anyone who may have been in these areas during these times and saw anything either suspicious or related to normal telecommunications maintenance is urged to contact the FBI,' said Greg Wuthrich, an FBI special agent. 'The individuals may appear to be normal telecommunications maintenance workers or possess tools consistent with that job role.'

The bureau said that there was 'no indication' that these 10 incidents were related to the still-unsolved 2013 sabotage of a San Jose-area Pacific Gas & Electric substation. AT&T fiber-optic cables were cut and a sniper's bullets knocked out 17 transformers in that situation. Last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accidentally released a document outlining areas where the nation's electrical grid was susceptible to a terror attack. The Wall Street Journal, citing the data, reported that an attack on nine 'key' substations could cause power outages nationwide.

The FBI's online tip-line is at"


AT&T fiber optic cable box
AT&T fiber optic cable box
Carole Judd-Lamb sits by a ham radio set up at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital "just in case" there were further internet outages. The hospital has satellite-based communications also.
Carole Judd-Lamb sits by a ham radio set up at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital "just in case" there were further internet outages. The hospital has satellite-based communications also.
A Comcast photo of a fiber-optic cut posted in Arlington, Virgina where the cable company offered an unusual reward: " two years of free Xfinity Triple Play services (Internet, phone, video) — or $5,000 cash — for information leading to the arrest and charges filed for those responsible for the crime."
A Comcast photo of a fiber-optic cut posted in Arlington, Virgina where the cable company offered an unusual reward: " two years of free Xfinity Triple Play services (Internet, phone, video) — or $5,000 cash — for information leading to the arrest and charges filed for those responsible for the crime."

(courtesy Mendocino Sports Plus)

* * *

COULD THURSDAY'S INTERNET OUTAGE be part of a pattern of mysterious recent Bay Area disruption? A recent Wall Street Journal report from mid-August suggests it could be:


Authorities have yet to nail down a motive or culprit for more than a dozen breaches in the Bay Area

by Drew Fitzgerald, Aug. 12, 2015

The attacker struck close to midnight, climbing into a manhole at the mouth of California’s Niles Canyon and slicing a series of cables that collectively carried billions of bits of Internet data.

Hundreds of miles away at a Zayo Group Holdings Inc. network operations center in Tulsa, Okla., engineers saw the disruption immediately and later a second break made further up the road the same February night.

As monitoring software lighted up with red bars indicating several circuit failures, technicians pinpointed the breaches at a familiar place—the site of two previous cuts. Several months later, in June, Fremont, Calif., police reported a fifth cut.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says San Francisco’s Bay Area has suffered more than a dozen attacks on its fiber optic infrastructure over the past year. The attacks slow Internet service and disrupt financial transactions and emergency phone calls.

The way the cuts are clustered on single nights around the East Bay and in San Jose, Calif., at the heart of Silicon Valley, have led officials to believe the attacks are intentional. Beyond that, they have yet to nail down a motive, let alone a culprit, creating an unusual cyber whodunit with few leads and little understanding.

“Everyone recognizes that there seems to be a pattern of events here,” said John Lightfoot, assistant deputy agent in charge at the FBI’s San Francisco office. “We really need the assistance of the public to reach out and help solve this one.”

The attacks show how easy it is for troublemakers to cause disruption for businesses that rely on the Web, though the impact is also mitigated by the Internet’s flexibility, which allows telecom companies to quickly route around the cuts while their repair crews patch up the damage.

Experts say the networks that process everything from purchases to 911 calls are much more vulnerable than other critical infrastructure like power plants. First, the cables are clearly marked to prevent accidental damage. And they are also ubiquitous, tucked into manholes or smaller hand-holes that are underneath city streets or next to out-of-the-way train tracks, making them difficult to defend.

“You don’t have to be well-trained to know that there is cable,” said Felipe Alvarez, chief executive of East Coast telecom provider Axiom Fiber Networks. “That is worrisome.”

The Federal Communications Commission requires telecom companies to report failures that have major impacts on users or that disrupt 911 services or key government facilities. Each year carriers report thousands of such outages, most of which are caused by accidents. Intentional cuts are still a small part of the thousands of cuts reported across the U.S. each year.

In the three years to 2013, slightly more than 100 incidents of malicious activity have interrupted service each year, according to the FCC data.

In the first nine months of last year, there were only 39 reported incidents of vandalism nationwide. An additional three were chalked up to thieves trying to steal metal cables, while 16 cited gunfire—often the result of drunk shooters using wires for target practice, industry experts say.

Engineers at the largest companies say local cable and telephone networks suffer breaks from car crashes, construction and animals nearly every day.

Level 3 Communications Inc., a network provider, deals with about 300 major cuts on its network a year, according to Brian Harvey, the carrier’s regional president of North American operations. Most are caused by mistakes by construction crews or by animals chewing through the cables.

Level 3 says only about 5% of those failures are intentional. Even then, culprits are usually found to be searching in vain for copper to sell on the black market. Otherwise “it’s people who are mad,” Mr. Harvey said. “They’ve got some sort of grievance against Level 3 or telecom in general.”

The pattern of cuts in Northern California caught the attention of the area’s joint terrorism task force, which includes representatives from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local police. Carriers’ security experts have also met with police on the issue.

Most of the cable cuts reported in the Bay Area happened under the cover of darkness around midnight, according to an FBI news release seeking information. No one has come forward as a witness to any of the late-night infractions.

Network experts say the perpetrator might only need a hacksaw and manhole lifter to get the job done and some basic knowledge of where cables would be. Authorities are unsure how many people might be involved.

A rash of attacks last summer hit cables in Berkeley, San Jose and Walnut Creek within a few hours. A single saboteur could theoretically drive to each spot in a single night, but there would be little time to spare.

The FBI’s Mr. Lightfoot is fairly certain about one thing: These attacks aren’t related to a 2013 attack on a PG&E power station in the area. In that incident, the attacker went into an underground vault to slice telephone cables before snipers open fired on the substation.

AT&T Inc. offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in that case. The company is also offering a $10,000 bounty for information about the latest spate of cuts.

The latest attack on Internet cables in the area occurred at the end of June. Near a highway bridge in Livermore, Calif., an attacker opened a manhole housing several separate telecom providers’ cables and cut three bundles of lines at around 4 a.m.

The effects were swift. Phone and TV signals were knocked out around the Sacramento area potentially affecting emergency calls. Hurricane Electric, an Internet service provider, reported that business customers faced slow service as far north as Seattle.

FBI investigators arrived on the scene later to collect evidence while teams of workers hired by each company waited to get service restored. Once the agents were done scouring the scene, each crew climbed down into the manhole and pulled several hundred feet of slack cable that telecom providers keep coiled in case a line is cut.

The crews then started repairing the damage by splicing each strand of glass fiber bundled into the cables, a process that took up most of the rest of the day when the service was finally restored to normal.

(Courtesy, the Wall Street Journal.)

* * *

LAKE COUNTY'S LATEST FIRE, in a remarkable string of fires in that region this summer, was up to 673 acres and 35% containment this morning. CDF's report (7:30 am Friday):

"CALFIRE and the US Forest Service (USFS) worked aggressively through the night to gain an increased containment of 35% on the 670 acre Elk fire north of the community of Upper Lake in Lake County. Fire containment is a combination of direct fire line built AND the level of confidence the fire will stay within those lines. While the spread of the fire has been currently stopped, there is a large amount of unburned fuel within the lines with gusty winds and increasing temperatures over the holiday weekend. Crews at scene continue to build and improve fire lines as well as mopping up hot spots near its perimeter. CAL FIRE and the USFS need the public’s help to be extremely cautious while working or recreating near dry fuels for the remainder of the fire season. Using equipment, parking in dry grass, mowing, dragging tow chains, and cooking are all avoidable causes of fire. You can learn more by visiting: "

* * *


* * *





photos by Annie Kalantarian

* * *

BLAST FROM THE PAST [Anderson Valley Advertiser, January 5, 1983]

Kidnapping Suspects Linked To Anderson Valley

by Betty Malmgren, Editor

Right before Christmas several Anderson Valley residents got a surprise. They read about an 11-year-old Vietnamese boy who escaped and led authorities to a parked van in San Francisco where two suspects were arrested and three-year-old Tara Burke was found. Little Tara had been kidnapped last February 6 from a shopping center. The television news had tearful close-ups of her being reunited with her family. Bay Area newspapers had pictures of the van where the two children had been held captive.

The boy and girl were allegedly beaten and sexually abused by the two suspects. Police were also reported to be investigating whether the case is connected to a larger child pornography ring. Since the arrest, there has not been much news coverage from the Bay Area — one concern already expressed was that the suspects get a fair trial.

One Anderson Valley resident said, "When I saw that van I knew right away." What she knew was that the suspects, Luis "Tree Frog" Johnson, 33, and Alex Cabarga, 18, had lived in Boonville, had played with her child.

The suspects' connection with the Mendocino Coast — especially the Albion area — was quickly established. Once we learned the suspects had lived in Anderson Valley, it was not difficult to find Boonville residents who remembered them. However, most did not wish to be identified.

We got the same impressions of "Tree Frog" from several different people. The picture those who knew him paint is of a drifter, a "moocher," someone who hangs around until asked to leave. And he hung around with several different Boonville families over a period of several years. "He was a flake, light fingered — he never grew up," was one comment.

One Boonville resident remembered Cabarga was about 14 when she last saw him here. "He was like Tree Frog's son. I wondered where they got money to live on. I think Alex's mother gave him [Tree Frog] $300 a month to take care of him but he was secretive. They went from house to house until he wore out his welcome." The same woman described him as coming on "like a friend of kids," and recalled expensive gifts he brought Alex.

Another Boonville mother met Tree Frog through Alex, who was known here by the nickname "Hadario." While she wasn't sure of the spelling of that nickname, she recalled the day he knocked on her door and asked her to play with her son. Tree Frog often played games with younger neighborhood children and she was impressed that he would take responsibility for the younger Hodario. She also recalled meeting Hodario's mother.

She said at the time she felt positive about her son being exposed to Tree Frog since there are so few blacks in the valley. He seemed to be good with children until an incident aroused her suspicions. She also recalled Tree Frog told lots of stories of trips takenn to Mexico and had expensive movie equipment and expensive gifts he tried to give her son. Another Boonville woman also recalled his expensive camera equipment but said, at the time, she didn't question it.

Few Boonville residents who knew the pair expressed surprise over their arrest for the kidnapping and various sex charges. "He [Tree Frog] was not a violent person so I was a little surprised," said one. "I think it's real possible," said another adding, "he was kind of a nut, some of the stories were a little crazy. I was kind of afraid of him." A third woman who said she met the pair in 1978 said his attitude was one of "get what you can. I'm sure he's guilty. He [Alex] was his first victim."

While many who knew the pair in Boonville said they had not seen them for about three years, several persons reported seeing them as recently as two or three months ago. One woman said she saw a Tree Frog in the AV Market and that his "cohort" was waiting in the van. Other Boonville resident who had known him reported seeing him here about the same time although they couldn't remember exactly. Concern was expressed that perhaps the young kidnapped Tara was with them. "If we had only known," was one thought.

At least one source reported seeing Tree Frog here more recently — perhaps as recently as a month ago. Some of those we talked to had also been questioned by Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Miller. However, Miller was unavailable for comment at deadline.

Meanwhile, in the Bay Area the two suspects are being held and court dates being scheduled.

* * *

Note: With the discovery that the Bay Area kidnap suspects had lived in Boonville, one can't help but think of other former residents who made headlines here: Jim Jones, Charles Manson and one is reminded of the Parnell kidnap case, Leonard Lake's storehouse of weapons — crimes and individuals like those may be routine in large cities but here they seem to hit harder — perhaps because in such a small area often residents knew those involved personally. With this latest case we have heard more than one resident ask why the Valley attracts such "kooks." Is that a fair question? We would defend the area pointing to all the good news here, the good people who will never make headlines. —B.M.

* * *

FIVE YEARS LATER (LA Times, September 3, 1988)

208-Year Term in 1982 Child Molestation Case Rejected

by Philip Hager

A San Francisco-based state Court of Appeal, ruling in a notorious 1982 child molestation case, has upheld the convictions of two men for the sexual abuse of a 2-year-old girl who was abducted and held prisoner for 10 months in a filthy van.

But the panel overturned the 208-year sentence of Alex Cabarga, who was a teen-ager when the crimes were committed. The court found that Cabarga, now 22, had been dominated and abused by co-defendant Luis Reynaldo (Tree Frog) Johnson who taught him that child molesting was "normal" and struck him when he disobeyed orders.

The court affirmed all but 64 years of a 527-year term imposed on Johnson, 39, who was convicted of 100 counts of sex offenses and other crimes involving the girl, and a boy, then 10, who escaped and led police to the van where the girl was being held.

The court also upheld the conviction of Cabarga, who the panel noted had been turned over by his parents to Johnson as a youngster. But the court overturned Cabarga's sentence as cruel and unusual.

"A sentence of life imprisonment for Cabarga, who the evidence overwhelmingly discloses was Johnson's 'third victim,' is constitutionally excessive," Appellate Justice Jerome A. Smith wrote in an opinion joined by Appellate Justice Allison M. Rouse.

In dissent, Appellate Justice J. Anthony Kline, while agreeing that Cabarga's conviction should be upheld, said Cabarga should never have been tried as an adult and that he was entitled to a new hearing to challenge a ruling that he was legally sane.

"If the record makes anything clear it is that Alex Cabarga is as tragic a victim as (the 2-year-old girl); a victim not just of Tree Frog Johnson but of the misguided parents who delivered him to that monstrous pedophile at the age of about 10," Kline wrote.

Alan M. Caplan of San Francisco, Cabarga's attorney, said he was "ecstatic" that the court had overturned the sentence. "It's about time someone in the system recognized Alex was a victim too," he said.

Caplan said that in future proceedings, he will ask a trial court here to issue a short sentence that will allow for parole or release of Cabarga immediately under stringent conditions in which he would receive mental therapy. Cabarga is being held in Soledad State Prison.

The girl, now 9, was kidnaped from a shopping center in February, 1982, while her parents were in a store. Two months after the girl was kidnaped, the boy moved into the van with Johnson to escape his parents, according to testimony in the case. After his escape, the boy told authorities that he and the girl had been kept prisoner and repeatedly abused, with the girl being forced to perform sex acts in exchange for food.

* * *


Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I'm spiralling down to the hole in the ground where I hide.

If you negotiate the minefield in the drive
And beat the dogs and cheat cold electronic eyes
And if you make it past the shotgun in the hall,
Dial the combination, open the priesthole
And if I'm in I'll tell you what's behind the wall.

There's a kid who had a big hallucination
Making love to girls in magazines.
He wonders if you're sleeping with your new found faith.
Could anybody love him
Or is it just a crazy dream?

And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?

Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away
And leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance
As you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing
Or would you take me home?

Thought I oughta bare my naked feelings,
Thought I oughta tear the curtain down.
I held the blade in trembling hands
Prepared to make it but just then the phone rang
I never had the nerve to make the final cut.

--Roger Waters


  1. BB Grace September 4, 2015

    Re: Early reports indicated the cut was near Hopland and was an act of vandalism.

    Why not indicated the cut was as an act of terrorism?

    • Mike Jamieson September 4, 2015

      Apparently there’s been a pattern of this happening in the Bay Area.
      (Someone posted on the listserv a few months old WSJ article reporting on this yesterday.)

      For it to be an “act of terrorism”, I suppose these disruptions would have to be intended to disrupt our economic activity and create serious distress. Since mass casualties aren’t involved here, in terms of lives, not loss hours on cable and Facebook, AND no one is claiming responsibility with an accompanying manifesto explaining themselves, this might not be “terrorism”. Or, it could be trial runs for maybe domestic terrorists perhaps. So far, we don’t know why these individuals (or perhaps a very adept single person) have been doing this. Could be a whole bunch of reasons.

  2. Mike Jamieson September 4, 2015

    Update from UDJ just in:

    UPDATE: An AT&T repair worker near the break told the UDJ this morning that the line had been raised out of the ground earlier because of a slide in the area and was being held up off the ground by steel posts, unfortunately easily accessed. He said they believe the vandals thought it was copper wiring – which is valuable these days – and chopped it in half. When they realized it wasn’t copper they just dropped it and left.
    The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is investigating yesterday’s internet outage as a work of vandals seeking copper wire. Sheriff Tom Allman said a deputy inspected the site of the fiber-optic line cut south of Ukiah Thursday night and is requesting anyone with information call the MCSO at 707-463-4411, especially if they had contact with someone trying to sell copper wire Thursday morning.

  3. Harvey Reading September 4, 2015

    Re: The “cabel” cutting.

    How fragile an economy we are taught to worship from cradle to deathbed … brought to a halt by someone with some big wire cutters. How come those poor peddlers didn’t have credit card imprinters in anticipation of such an occurrence, or a similar occurrence? Terrorism? Hah. Of course, by the standards of the wealthy and their middle-class servants and distribution robots, every act that upsets their little apple carts is terrorism. Guess their god would have been the terrorist if the lines had been cut by an earthquake.

    • BB Grace September 4, 2015

      My experience with natural disasters is it brings people together.

      I’m unclear what it takes before a man made disaster is called a terrorist act. An ISIS flag? A Greenpeace Rainbow?

      AVA asks SABOTAGE? This act of crime spanned three counties. When I imagine vandalism, such as dog poop in a paper bag being lit on fire, ringing the doorbell and running away, I think of vandalism. Imagine doing that act to everyone who lost the cable they pay way way too much for? When tens of thousands of people are severed from a service low income phone subsidies call “lifeline”, it’s a terrorist act even if there is no ISIS flag left behind. Whoever is doing this should be labeled a terrorist least the Counties entice copy cats who ain’t afraid of some bag of poop vandalism charge.

  4. debrakeipp September 6, 2015

    Remember when Point Arena was trying to get a T-3 connection from Williams Communication, who was selling stock on how much fiberoptic cable they could lay in rural zones like ours, but it didn’t have to be “connected” to anything? Renee Innis from MCN told us years ago that by the time Point Arena got internet, it’d arrive in some other form like satellite, instead of a T-3 connection. He was right!

    Weeeeeell, Williams installed as much fiberoptic cable as they could, and it’s bubbling up through the earth everywhere they planted it. So, to quote our famed editor those many years ago, “It (fiberoptic cable line) isn’t very big around and not buried very deep – it’d just take an ax to cut through it.”

    Reporter Essie Smith, from Fort Bragg rode along on the DEA bust that lifted off from the Boonville Airport the day before the fiberoptic cable was cut. The DEA usually does two-day busts to make the operation worth their time, but since the fiberoptics were out, suspending phone service, the DEA was out of biz for day-two, too, just like the rest of us! See Essie’s description of the BV pot bust on her blog at:

  5. debrakeipp September 7, 2015

    That’s S. E Smith ( on and xojane.

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