Celebrity chef’s group feeds the hungry on Spain’s eruption-hit La Palma

By Silvio Castellanos and Sergio Perez

LA PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – Working in close proximity to the red-hot lava flowing from a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, emergency workers anxiously await their lunch break – and while any food would do, it tastes better when it comes from a celebrity chef’s kitchen.

Chef Jose Andres’ non-profit World Central Kitchen (WCK) has been delivering hot food, sandwiches and water to thousands of evacuees as well as the emergency workers overseeing residents’ removal from harm’s way.

“Although there are so many of us, it seems like there’s a lack of personnel … including those who come down to give us a sandwich! It seems silly but after eight hours on the ground it’s fundamental,” said Captain Diego Ortiz of the Guardia Civil police force.

Arriving in one of the emptied neighborhoods in a van, WCK volunteer Pablo Pais told Reuters: “The lava’s very close. Until the day before yesterday there were still people in these houses.”

The non-profit started cooking 200 meals a day early in the eruption – which began on Sept. 19 – and is now making 1,400, with the amount growing daily, said Olivier de Belleroche, a 45-year-old chef from Madrid who works for WCK.

After the director of a local hotel suggested using up all the hotel’s food stocks as creeping lava threatening to cut off power lines, WCK and its partners organized a large convoy of food for the military, rescue workers and evacuees, he said.

“It’s very emotional, that sense of constantly being on the alert, so many people losing their homes,” Belleroche mused after pulling a tray packed with dozens of sealed hot meals out of the oven in a bustling kitchen ceded by a supermarket chain.

“You grow more involved with the people – I’ve been doing this for four weeks now,” he added, explaining that initially he had come just for a few days.

WCK head Andres is known for his innovative cooking and credited with popularizing tapas in America in the 1990s.

He has recently partnered with the Archewell charity of Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to set up a series of community relief centres in disaster-stricken areas around the world.

(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Paul Simao)

U.S. to allocate $10 million to non-profits colleges to fight extremism

Undated combination of undated photos from a social media account of Omar Mateen

y Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will announce on Wednesday $10 million in grants for non-profit organizations and colleges to develop counseling programs and other services to turn people away from violent extremism, according to a senior DHS official.

The official, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity before the planned announcement, said the department recognizes law enforcement is limited in its ability to intervene before someone becomes radicalized like Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people in Orlando last month.

After killings by Muslim extremists in San Bernardino, California, Boston and Garland, Texas, DHS officials found family and community members of the perpetrators suspected their intentions but did not know where to turn.

The grants are designed to support mental health clinics, community groups and other places where someone can be referred for help before they come under the radar of law enforcement.

The $10 million was allocated by Congress in December as part of an effort by the Justice Department and DHS to launch a softer, community-based approach to counter extremist messages like those promoted by the Islamic State militant group online.

The program, known as Countering Violent Extremism, began in three pilot cities last year: Minneapolis, Boston and Los Angeles. The program met some pushback from Muslim groups in those cities who said they were being unfairly targeted by the federal government.

The DHS official said the money could be used to intervene against any type of extremism, but he expected the majority of the grant applications to be aimed at combating Muslim extremism.

After the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, the official said, the department began rethinking its approach to fighting extremism that relied mainly on strengthening local law enforcement.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards Editing by W Simon)

Washington’s MedStar computers down for second day after virus

By Jim Finkle

(Reuters) – MedStar Health’s computer systems remained offline on Tuesday for the second straight day after the non-profit, one of the biggest medical service providers in the U.S. capital region, shut down parts of its network to stem the spread of a virus.

MedStar spokeswoman Ann Nickels said she did not know when the systems would be restored or what type of virus had infected the network.

“Medical services continue,” she said in an interview. When asked if elective procedures would be performed, she said that would determined “case by case.”

The non-profit, which runs 10 hospitals and some 250 outpatient facilities in Washington and Maryland, said Monday on its Facebook page that its computer network was infected by a virus that prevented some users from logging into the system early that day. MedStar quickly decided to take down “all system interfaces to prevent the virus from spreading” and moved to backup systems for paper record-keeping, the post said.

Nickels said she had no further information about the attack: “We are actively investigating.”

The FBI said on Monday that it was looking into the incident at MedStar, which is one of the largest medical providers to have operations interrupted by malicious software.

The discovery came after several recent attacks on U.S. hospitals by cyber extortionists using software known as ransomware, which encrypts data and demands that users pay to get it unlocked.

Last month, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles paid $17,000 to regain access to its systems after such an attack.

Security blogger Brian Krebs last week reported that Henderson, Kentucky-based Methodist Hospital declared a state of emergency after falling victim to a ransomware attack.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Additional reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)