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    Just in time for the holiday rush, a small seal made its way to Oakland International Airport early Thursday morning only to be escorted back home by authorities.

    The Alameda County Sheriff's Office posted footage to its social media pages capturing deputies safely steering the seal back to the waters of the San Francisco Bay.

    "We are not exactly sure where he was headed but a flight to Hawaii is suspected," the sheriff's office quipped on Facebook.

    The sheriff's office added on Twitter that the seal was "a very cool customer" who "handles holiday travel well."



    Photo Credit: Alameda County Sheriff's Office
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    A seal spotted near Oakland International Airport. (Dec. 20, 2018)A seal spotted near Oakland International Airport. (Dec. 20, 2018)

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    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is resigning from the Trump administration at the end of February so President Donald Trump can have someone in the role with views on defense that are closey aligned with his own.

    Mattis told Trump he has "the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours" on subjects like how to "advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values," as well as alliance building.

    Read the full letter here:



    Photo Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, File
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

    This Oct. 23, 2018, file photo shows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left) and President Donald Trump at a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington.This Oct. 23, 2018, file photo shows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left) and President Donald Trump at a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington.

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    Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his historic investigation into Russian election interference and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February, government officials and others familiar with the situation tell NBC News.

    "They clearly are tying up loose ends," said a lawyer who has been in contact with the Mueller team.

    The sources either did not know or would not say whether Mueller has answered the fundamental question he was hired to investigate: Whether Trump or anyone around him conspired with the Russian intelligence operations to help his campaign.



    Photo Credit: AP

    FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington.FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, special counsel Robert Mueller departs after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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    A stolen SUV suspect was arrested Thursday after a slow-speed chase through Santa Ana.

    The chase briefly sped along the 55 Freeway before jumping onto city streets. It wound through the city, followed closely by about a dozen police cruisers in heavy rush-hour traffic.

    Police used a spike strip to puncture tires, but the chase continued.

    It ended when the driver surrendered.


    A suspected car thief is arrested after a televised police chase ends in Santa Ana on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018.A suspected car thief is arrested after a televised police chase ends in Santa Ana on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018.

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    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi reacted to President Donald Trump’s refusal to back a bill averting a government shutdown Thursday. Schumer said Trump that between the possible shutdown, the falling stock market and the resignation of Defense Secretary of Jim Mattis, Trump is “plunging the country into chaos.”


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    President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will retire in February 2019. Mattis submitted a letter to Trump saying the president deserves a secretary of defense with views more close to his on things like alliances and building an international order. The move comes after Trump abruptly announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria, where they’d been fighting ISIS.


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    With heavy hearts Manhattan Beach is preparing to mark the 25th anniversary of their first officer shot and killed in the line of duty, Officer Martin Ganz, and the officer who first came upon the scene that day was also one of his best friends.

    The killing affected not only the police department but all of Manhattan Beach. Ganz was killed during a traffic stop as his nephew was in the car for a ride along on Dec. 27, 1993.

    Ganz was shot multiple times by a driver who got out of the car, followed the officer, and finished him with a shot to the head, then pointing the gun at Ganz' nephew before deciding to leave. Sgt. Tim Zins, then 23, responded not realizing what had happened until he pulled into the parking lot at Manhattan Village.

    "I very much remember driving into the mall, seeing Martin's police car with its lights on and then seeing Martin down on the ground behind the car," Zins said.

    Police believe the killer shot Ganz before he was going to rob a supermarket. The killer was tracked down in Beaverton, Oregon where he killed a woman who saw him rob a grocery store.

    Roger Brady was sentenced to death and is still on death row. There are multiple memorials to Ganz throughout the city. Next thursday will be the 25th anniversary of Ganz's killing. Zins hopes a lot of people will come and join Ganz's family for a remembrance at the Joslyn Center.


    Manhattan Beach Police Officer Martin Ganz was killed during a traffic stop as his nephew was in the car for a ride along on Dec. 27, 1993.Manhattan Beach Police Officer Martin Ganz was killed during a traffic stop as his nephew was in the car for a ride along on Dec. 27, 1993.

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    December-themed dining can often be dominated by desserts, at least in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

    After all, sweets are fairly portable, and snackable, and rather uncomplicated to create, which means that cupcakes and brittles show up at bake sales and holiday parties far more often than, say, green been casserole or ham.

    Cookie exchanges are still a thing, in short, while roast turkey exchanges are not.

    But when Christmas draws near, the more elaborate and meal-oriented dishes begin to take the stage, with one of the most traditional, and piscine-pretty, filling out the fish-forward role on Christmas Eve.

    It's the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a multi-course dinner that, yes, includes seven different offerings, all oceanic in nature.

    Those dishes might feature salmon or cod or lobster or shrimp or crab or all of the above, and they'll all have an air of occasion to them.

    A number of Italian restaurants around Southern California celebrate this sea-worthy celebration each Dec. 24, though some will push the tangy tastes beyond Christmas with a wrap-up closer to New Year's Day.

    Is your family's go-to Italian trattoria staging this grand meal, which hails from Southern Italy? Check in, if you're tempted, for a seafood-oriented experience that'll out-tang and out-brine every other fish-centered soirée out there.

    Some local places going the "Seven Fishes" route in 2018 include Cecconi's in West Hollywood, Sosta in Hermosa Beach, and Casa Barilla in Costa Mesa.

    Be sure to ring first, to make sure you can get a reservation, for reservations are essential when the making such a major meal is undertaken.

    How many courses have you enjoyed come Christmas Eve? And have they all drawn from the same thematic category? If you've never Feasted upon the Seven Fishes, perhaps 2018 is the year to swim into a fresh way of approaching the holiday.



    Photo Credit: Cecconi's

    Twirl a fork into a decadent plate of lobster spaghetti, one of the courses at Cecconi's annual Feast of the Seven Fishes on Monday, Dec. 24.Twirl a fork into a decadent plate of lobster spaghetti, one of the courses at Cecconi's annual Feast of the Seven Fishes on Monday, Dec. 24.

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    They're already piling up at the ports.

    That's the thought behind a local developer's plan to use old shipping containers as housing to help LA's homeless crisis and streets of shame.

    Flyaway Homes announced in March 2017 that they'd purchased a duplex in South LA, got the plot rezoned by the city, and would be building a new nine-unit, 33-bed, three-story apartment complex for permanent supportive housing with the non-profit group, The People Concern.

    Fast-forward to December 2018 and the complex is near capacity.

    "It's pretty good, it's spacious," says John Kilgore, one of the newest tenants at 820 W. Colden Ave. "Never would've imagined walking in it would look like this."

    Kilgore is a single dad to five. For three years, though, he was unable to be with his kids. He says medical issues and lack of work lead to losing his home.

    He spent that time couch-surfing, his kids split up with relatives. But he says he never lost his faith in God and in himself that they'd be together again.

    "They knew that I was trying my hardest," he says. "They didn't give up on me and I wasn't going to give up on my kids."

    The People Concern contacted Kilgore and offered him the four-bedroom, one-bath, 800-square-foot home.

    "When I got those keys, I think it was the happiest moment for all of us," Kilgore says. "Gave us a sense of being home, have something that we can call our own."

    Flyaway Homes is the development arm of the People Concern. CEO Kevin Hirai says it took about 48 shipping containers to create the nine-unit building.

    "There are a lot of people out there that need this type of housing opportunity," Hirai says. "And we feel if we can clear the pathway and show how it can be done differently to provide housing, that's our mission."

    He says these modular homes can be built twice as fast and at half the cost of traditional developments. But perhaps the most important part of the plan is the idea that is to be permanent, supportive housing.

    "We come from a housing first model," says licensed family therapist Heather Gibbs, with the People Concern. "So the primary needs need to be met which is a roof over your head, feeling safe, food, shelter, clothing. We want this to be a permanent solution, it's not transitional, it's not interim, it's definitely permanent."

    The Colden Avenue project took under a year to build and with zero tax-payer money.

    But Flyaway Homes says it hopes the City of LA recognizes what can be achieved with its pilot complex and that money from recent bond measures could be used for future plans.

    "The HHH bond fund has recognized that there's room for innovation and room for a pilot project along the lines of what we're doing here," Hirai says. "And so there's a proposal out there now the mayor is considering to carve out 10 percent of that fund to make available for development in this type of product."

    Flyaway Homes plans to break ground on its next development in South LA in January 2019.


    A duplex in South Los Angeles has become a new location for shipping container homes to help the homeless.A duplex in South Los Angeles has become a new location for shipping container homes to help the homeless.

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    Jennifer Lopez stars alongside her real life BFF Leah Remini in "Second Act", a story about a 40-something woman who takes a leap of faith to get a better job when someone reinvents her identity. The pair tell us what makes their on screen friendship seem so genuine.

    "I feel like we bring the best out in each other, and I think you see that in this movie." Lopez said. "We brought our real relationship to the film."

    This modern-day "Working Girl" story follows Maya's (Lopez) friendship with Joan (Remini), and her relationship with boyfriend Trey, played adorably by Milo Ventimiglia. And, her relationship with a new work colleague Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) who also happens to be her boss's daughter. Sounds almost like 3 movies in one? That's pretty much what you will get.

    "Second Act" is a comedy that hovers between friendship, romantic relationships, and family with all three having a moment to shine. And it's all woven around a lie Joan's son cooked up to help give Maya a "Cinderella" makeover.

    Will the lie work? Will she get her dream job, the guy and keep her old friends? You can pretty much guess what's happening in the second act, but stay for the third act just because it's fun to watch.

    "Second Act" stars Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Milo Ventimiglia, and Vanessa Hudgens. It was directed by Peter Segal and opens nationwide December 21st.



    Photo Credit: Courtesy of STXfilms

    Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez star in SECOND ACT.Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez star in SECOND ACT.

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    Congress passed two bills this week that help address the ongoing issues faced by student veterans after the Department of Veterans Affairs struggled to pay GI Bill benefits, NBC News reported.  

    The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act, which passed Thursday, aims to ensure veterans received all the money they were owed. The Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018, passed late Wednesday, would further protect recipients from suffering consequences because of VA's delay. Both bills await President Donald Trump's signature to become law.

    Thousands of student veterans received late or incorrect housing payments this past semester because of computer problems at VA, forcing them into difficult financial circumstances. Many also did not receive their tuition payments, which put them at odds with their schools.



    Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, File

    In this November 15, 2018, file photo, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie delivers remarks during a conference with federal, state and local veterans leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.In this November 15, 2018, file photo, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie delivers remarks during a conference with federal, state and local veterans leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.

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    A Sunrise man is facing a federal charge of mailing a threatening communication to the home of the family of David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor and one of the most visible activists in the March for Our Lives movement.

    Warren Stanley Bond, 78, is accused of mailing a letter to Rebecca Boldrick, Hogg’s mother, at their Parkland home in June.

    Last month, Bond agreed to a Risk Protection Order stemming from the same incident. The order, also known as a red flag law, allows law enforcement officers or family members to petition the courts to temporarily remove guns from a person who is a threat to themselves or others. The law was one of several gun-control legislations passed in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

    The petition for the RPO states that on June 25, Boldrick and her husband called the Broward Sheriff’s Office to report getting a threatening letter in the mail. According to the report, it was a white, self-adhesive envelope addressed to Boldrick. There was no return address on it. Inside the envelope, Boldrick discovered a white letter-size sheet of paper with ten words typed in large black font. The warning read, "Keep F------ with the NRA and you will be DOA."

    Since the Valentine's Day massacre, David Hogg, along with several other Parkland survivors, have made countless media appearances, grilled lawmakers about gun reform during town halls, and sparked massive walkouts and peaceful protests at schools across the country. Their efforts have drawn international attention. In November, they were awarded the International Children's Peace Prize for their youth-led organization March for Our Lives. 

    According to the RPO petition, a BSO detective and a Postal Inspector focused their investigation on Bond, and when questioned, Bond admitted he sent the letter. The report says he told the investigators, "Yep! That is exactly what I told her, and you know what, I believe it today."

    The RPO petition noted that Bond had a concealed weapons permit in Florida and owned a firearm. He reportedly told investigators he had been a member of the NRA but recently cancelled his membership.

    Bond was arrested Thursday and appeared in federal court. He has no prior history of arrests. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    He is scheduled to appear in court again Friday and has told the federal court he plans to hire an attorney.

    Boldrick told NBC 6 she’s "relieved he was caught. There should be consequences when you threaten to kill someone," Boldrick said in a text message.

    The Hoggs' home was also the target of a "swatting" prank in June, when someone called 911 falsely claiming to be heavly armed in order to get police to respond to the home.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images
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    David Hogg, Parkland shooting survivor and activist givess an interview before the kick off of the 50 Miles More walk against gun violence which will end with a protest at Smith and Wesson Firearms factory on August 23, 2018 in Worcester, Massachusetts.David Hogg, Parkland shooting survivor and activist givess an interview before the kick off of the 50 Miles More walk against gun violence which will end with a protest at Smith and Wesson Firearms factory on August 23, 2018 in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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    Los Angeles Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler was approached two months ago with a special request. A longtime season-ticket holder asked team president Gillian Zucker if he could call a game on television with Lawler and honor his 40 seasons with the club.

    Lawler apprehensively said yes, until he found out it wasn't just any season-ticket holder. It happens to be one that has hosted the Academy Awards nine times.

    Billy Crystal, who has been the team's most well-known fan through the good times and bad, will be the analyst for the Jan. 31 game against the Lakers.

    "They told me he really wants to do it," Lawler said before the Clippers faced Dallas on Thursday night. "He has been a fan forever and he wants to take his time to pay his respects for my longtime service to the club."

    Crystal has been a season-ticket holder since 1985, when the team played at the old LA Sports Arena. Lawler said the two have spent a lot of time over the years talking basketball and that it will be a fun experience doing it on television.

    "It will be a big game and the building will be electric. He's done the Academy Awards for nine years so he can handle our broadcast," Lawler said.

    Crystal isn't the only guest analyst who will work with Lawler this season. Mike Fratello, Hubie Brown and Bill Walton -- who are all former partners of Lawler -- will return for some games.



    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Actor and Clipper fan Billy Crystal reacts as the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers play during Game Five of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Spurs won 111-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)Actor and Clipper fan Billy Crystal reacts as the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers play during Game Five of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Spurs won 111-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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    Borderline’s country night made a come back in Thousand Oaks Thursday night  seven weeks after a shooter opened fire and killed 12 people.

    Owners of the local venue The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills hosted a country night to bring community together and helped them heal.

    Kelsey Lewis, who worked as a DJ at the Borderline Bar & Grill the night of the shooting, said this country night was “necessary.”

    “It’s not the dancing that heals,” she said, “but being around everybody we saw every week.”

    The Borderline Bar & Grill owner, Brian Hynes, decided to organize this night after what he saw his line-dancing patrons were doing.

    “They’ve been dancing in fields, shopping centers and parking lots,” he said. “I thought it was necessary to get a place to get ‘em together that feels like home.”

    Dozens of people lined up outside The Canyon Club to show support, but for some it was a tough night.

    “It’s difficult but so powerful, too,” said a community member at the club’s country night.

    “My heart bleeds for those families,” said another woman at the event. “I am one of the fortunate ones, my son walked away.”

    Jason Coffman, who lost his son Cody Coffman at the shooting, also attended Thursday’s country night

    “It was very touching to me to go there tonight and see the outpour of love this community has not just for my son, but for all that were lost there,” he said.

    Lewis survived the shooting, but lost six close friends that night.

    “I will always dance for them,” she said, “always.”


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    Just days before Christmas, a Long Island family is desperately trying to get the body of their veteran husband and father back home from China after he mysteriously died on a flight there from New York.

    On Friday, Dec. 7, retired Lt. Col. Norman Easy, a health care executive, boarded a China Eastern Airlines flight at JFK Airport and headed to Shanghai for a business trip. He travels frequently, according to his family, but wife Nixtia panicked when the father of four didn't let her know he'd landed in China.  

    "He always communicates with us, and I didn't hear nothing from him," said Nixtia.

    When he didn't show up for a meeting on Monday, his company dispatched a team to find him. 

    "One of the police officers who happened to be at the airport when he died [also] happened to be at the police station when the team got there," his son Marcus told News 4 New York. 

    What the officer told the team was devastating. 

    "He said that someone matching my dad's description passed away on the plane," Marcus said. "They weren't allowed to verify that it was him but they're 100 percent sure it was him." 

    Since then, the Easy family say they've been getting the runaround from the Chinese government. They can't find out how he died, and they can't get his body.

    "Just a good man who's done so much for his family -- not just for his family, but for the country and gave up almost 30 years of his life," said daughter Caitlin. "I just feel like the treament he's been receiving is so heartbreaking."

    Family members said they were told on Wednesday that Easy's wife had to sign a waiver saying she doesn't object to anything in the police report -- a report she said she hasn't even seen -- before China will return his body. 

    "The fact that they're not willing to give us his body or death certificate or even the police report until we sign this waiver is just ridiculous," said Caitlin. 

    Easy's birthday is Christmas Eve. The family can't start to grieve until they have his body home, but they were determined to find out.

    "Something is off. We don't know what it is," said Marcus. "We gotta figure it out and get him home." 



    Photo Credit: News 4 NY

    Lt. Col. Norman Easy's family is in the middle of a heartbreaking battle to get his body backLt. Col. Norman Easy's family is in the middle of a heartbreaking battle to get his body back

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    What do we actually achieve when we wear an ugly holiday sweater?

    A) An impish joy that comes from walking a weirder fashion road.

    B) Compliments, and a few cocked eyebrows, throughout our day.

    C) A free Pie hole, The Pie Hole's recently introduced "two-bite pie."

    The answer, of course, is "all of the above," at least if the date on the calendar happens to be Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. 

    It's the first day of winter, meaning anything from the sweater family is appropriate, as is the consumption of pie.

    And given that Dec. 21 is the Friday before Christmas, you can count on several office and non-office parties taking place, making the urge to ugly-up your holiday sweater look even greater.

    So, you're boldly rocking a sparkly sweater with a glowing candy cane on it, you're loving the winter solstice, and you require two bites of delicious pie, pie that comes in flavors like Mexican chocolate and Nutella.

    And you'd love to score that small pie for free.

    What next?

    Find your nearest Pie Hole pie shop, show off your outlandish and seasonal sartorial look, and bite into the pay-nothing Pie hole you're handed, with gusto.

    And, yes: The boutique pastry chain's new Pie holes do have a little "h" in their name, but they're mighty major in the flavor department.

    Ugly holiday sweaters are forever, as are small and snackable pies, but this offer is only good on one day, and one day only: Dec. 21, 2018, so slip into that eye-testing Santa sweater and go get your free Pie hole, pronto.



    Photo Credit: The Pie Hole

    Dressed as Buddy the Elf on the first day of winter? Or rocking a color-clashy cardigan? You can score one free Pie hole, the new Dressed as Buddy the Elf on the first day of winter? Or rocking a color-clashy cardigan? You can score one free Pie hole, the new "two-bite pie" from The Pie Hole, on Dec. 21, 2018.

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    An oil painting that was stolen from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II was recovered by federal agents in the D.C. area, the News4 I-Team has learned.

    At least two people traveled to the Washington, D.C. area to attempt to sell the painting last year, court filings reviewed by the I-Team show. The duo was scheduled to attend an auction in November 2017, but the plan was scuttled after a fine art researcher learned the painting was stolen and notified the FBI, according to the head of the auctions firm.

    The painting, "Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina" by Mikhail N. Panin, was produced in 1911 and was the among the first works of art displayed in the collection of the Ekaterinoslav City Art Museum when it opened in 1914.

    The painting "disappeared during the occupation of the city during the Second World War," according to court filings. The museum was in a region of central Ukraine occupied by the Nazis between August 1941 and October 1943. 

    Court filings from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia said the painting is believed to have been held and displayed for decades in a Ridgefield, Connecticut home after World War II.

    The court filings said a Swiss citizen who emigrated to the United States in 1946 sold the home in 1962 and left the painting behind. The home was sold again in 1987, and the painting was left behind during that home sale as well, the court records said. 

    The U.S. Attorney has formally asked a federal judge to allow the forfeiture of the picture to the U.S. government. Federal agents have already obtained records from the Embassy of Ukraine in D.C. to prove the authenticity of the painting. 

    "The recovery of this art looted during World War II reflects the commitment of this office to pursue justice for victims of crime here and abroad," U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said in a statement to News4. "The looting of cultural heritage during World War II was tragic, and we are happy to be able to assist in the efforts to return such items to their rightful owners."

    In their filings with the court, the U.S. Attorney said the painting was scheduled to be auctioned on Nov. 18, 2017, and was published in an auction house catalogue. The filings also said at least two people hired a company to transport the 7.5- by 8.5-foot painting to the D.C.-area for the attempted sale. 

    Elizabeth Wainstein, owner of The Potomack Company auction house in Alexandria, told News4 that a fine arts researcher investigated the origins of the painting and found an article indicating it was once housed in a museum in the Ukraine. That article, however, indicated it had been "destroyed" during World War II, she said.

    "That was definitely a red flag," Wainstein told News4.

    She said the auction house reached out to the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum, which responded with an urgent request to stop the sale.

    The museum's statement read: "Attention! Painting 'Ivan the Terrible' was in the collection of the Dnepropetrovsk Art Museum until 1941 and was stolen during the Second World War. The museum documentation confirms this fact. Please stop selling this painting at auction!!! According the international rules of restitution of stolen works of art, the picture should return to Ukraine," according to court filings.

    A 2016 report by the News4 I-Team found the FBI has recovered at least 2,650 missing pieces of art and historical artifacts since 2004. The agency has an Art Crime Team, a specialized unit of agents formed and trained to track art thefts.

    The FBI and the Ukraine Embassy in the United States did not immediately return requests for comment.

    It’s not the first time Potomack Company has played a role in the recovery of stolen art. In 2012, Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting "Paysage Bords de Seine" was set to be auctioned there, when a Washington Post reporter discovered it had been stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951.



    Photo Credit: Court records

    "Secret Departure of Ivan the Terrible Before the Oprichina" by Mikhail N. Panin was stolen from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. It was recovered by U.S. federal agents in the Washington, D.C. area.

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    Vehicles were partially submerged and water surrounded homes Friday when a water main break flooded South Los Angeles neighborhoods.

    Photo Credit: Fabian Rodriguez

    Water surrounded homes and partially submerged vehicles Friday morning due to a water main break that flooded several blocks of South Los Angeles. (Dec. 21, 2018)Water surrounded homes and partially submerged vehicles Friday morning due to a water main break that flooded several blocks of South Los Angeles. (Dec. 21, 2018)

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    If the federal government shuts down, can you get that passport renewed for your January trip? What about your Social Security check? And do you have to file your taxes?

    We have answers.

    Q: How much of the government could shut down?

    A: What's threatened now is a "partial" shutdown. Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are already funded for the year and will continue to operate as usual, regardless of whether Congress and the president reach an agreement over funding for a border wall.

    Still, the dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, The Associated Press reported.

    Q: How many government workers could see their paychecks delayed?

    A: More than 800,000 federal employees would see their jobs disrupted, including more than half who would be forced to continue working without pay, the AP reported.

    According to a report by Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, more than 420,000 federal employees deemed essential would continue to work without pay during a partial shutdown. That includes employees working in law enforcement, corrections, Homeland Security, TSA, Customs and Border Protection agents and 42,000 Coast Guard employees.

    But more than 380,000 employees will be furloughed. 

    All employees should be paid back in full once the government reopens.

    Q: What about federal contractors?

    A: Government contractors are in an even tougher situation. If their contract is funded, they are likely to be OK -- but in past shutdowns some furloughed agencies have issued stop-work orders to contractors, according to the National Law Review.

    Contractors may not be made whole after a shutdown. And remember, not all contractors are big-money corporations -- the janitors at many government buildings are also contractors.

    Q: I ordered my holiday presents from Amazon! Will they get here?

    A: The U.S. Postal Service wouldn't be affected by any government shutdown because it's an independent agency and has its own sources of revenue. FedEx and UPS are private companies and would not be affected.

    Q: I rely on my income from Social Security. Will my check still arrive?

    A: Social Security checks will still go out. So will payments to Medicaid and Medicare programs and for veterans' programs, including the GI Bill and VA hospitals. But if you are applying to join one of those programs, you might have to wait. 

    And the U.S. food stamp program has only limited funding, if the shutdown stretches on.

    Q: What about the Mueller investigation?

    A: It is funded "from a permanent indefinite appropriation and would be unaffected in the event of a shutdown," a Justice Department spokesperson told CNN.

    Q: Can I go see Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and other national parks?

    A: That depends. Most national historic sites, including Independence National Historic Park, have areas funded by the National Park Service and other areas funded by private organizations. Some Park Service-funded locations would probably close.

    Independence Hall would likely shut down, but the privately funded Museum of the American Revolution would remain open, public radio and TV station WHYY has reported. Similarly, the National Constitution Center will stay open; the Liberty Bell pavilion probably won't.

    The Washington Monument would close, but the 11 Smithsonian museums and galleries along the National Mall and the National Zoo will stay open through Jan. 1 by using prior-year funds. They'll close on Christmas Dad as usual. 

    In the past, the vast majority of national parks were closed to visitors and campers, but during the last government shutdown in January the Interior Department tried to make parks as accessible as possible despite bare-bones staffing levels. It was not clear Monday if that effort will be repeated.

    Q: Can I renew my passport?

    A: The State Department will keep issuing passports, Bloomberg reported. But you might have a little trouble accessing their offices if the passport office you want to go to is inside a building run by another agency and that agency gets shut down.

    Q: Do I have to pay my taxes?

    A: Yes. 

    However, the IRS would have to furlough parts of its staff, which could affect the number of people available for tax prep help or investigations.

    Q: Can my kids still track Santa? 

    A: Yes. NORAD said that even if the government shuts down it will continue with its 63-year tradition of NORAD Tracks Santa in collaboration with more than 1,500 volunteers. 



    Photo Credit: Getty Images, File

    A closed sign was posted In January in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. If the government partially shuts down again in December, National Parks could be affected.A closed sign was posted In January in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. If the government partially shuts down again in December, National Parks could be affected.

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    "Simplified" is a common word heard around the holidays, and "low-key," too, as well as "I'm over the rush and the stress."

    Okay, that's several words, all in a row, but even those who can't wait for Christmas often seek out ways to host a holiday that's special but not overly splashy (due, yes, to the aforementioned stress).

    That all goes out the window, or rather the porthole, we talk about going out to enjoy a Christmas experience, one that might be a bit fancy, or stylish, or even a little plush.

    The Queen Mary, the landmark ocean-liner that's forever-at-home in Long Beach, understands how to add splash/dash to the days ahead of Christmas, something it did for years, for oodles of stars and dignataries, when it sailed the oceans.

    It isn't setting sail for its vintage past in the final days ahead of the 2018 yuletide, but it is brimming with special events, including Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 22 (pajama-wearing is absolutely a-ok), Holiday Dinner Shows, Holiday Follies Shows, and performances by the American Bombshells.

    Dates and times do vary for the last three to-dos, so check the Queen Mary site before you put on a fancy frock and make for the grand ship. 

    A ship that is also decked in delights of December, including "dazzling light displays," a lovely tree, and lots more. Queen Mary Christmas, a multi-week event, will still be sparkling through Christmas and New Year's, too, with an end date of Sunday, Jan. 6.



    Photo Credit: Queen Mary

    Jingle, jingle, jingle all the way to Long Beach for a number of ship-sweet seasonal to-dos in the days before Christmas.Jingle, jingle, jingle all the way to Long Beach for a number of ship-sweet seasonal to-dos in the days before Christmas.

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