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Police search for missing boy, grandmother

Foster City police have found a 10-year-old boy and his grandmother who were reported missing Monday evening.

Ricky Pani and his grandmother, 70-year-old Sujaya Chakravarthy were last seen together at a Safeway grocery store at 921 E. Hillsdale Blvd. around 7:45 p.m., police said.

They were found safe about three hours later, according to police.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:36:03 -0700

Sexual consent? Good2Go app wants to know you're ready, willing

Sexual assault is a big problem on college campuses, so one company is trying to fight the problem by reaching students where they live: on their smartphones.

http://twitter.com/ratermob/status/516660638026719232

It's called Good2Go. It's designed to confirm "mutual consent" between two adults, but it does have a few inherent problems.

The app works by asking both users whether they consent to sex and how intoxicated they are. It requires at least one user to have an account and the other to enter his or her phone number.

The app's creators say they set out to help improve communication, cutting back cases of sexual assault on college campuses by making sure everyone is on board. "It may stop the action for a second, but everyone understands it is in the interest of safety, so it is worth the momentary pause."

>> RELATED: How 'yes means yes' defines sexual assault

And yes, they're totally serious. "Attaining affirmative consent in advance reduces the risk of assaults and regretted encounters and protects both parties."

The app has already gotten a fair share of ribbing. A writer for Uproxx says, "Trying to automate a process that’s profoundly personal and subjective is always going to fail."

But let's say it actually does catch on. Are there any potential downsides?

http://twitter.com/washingtonpost/status/516679321743028226

Well, The Washington Post says, by logging encounters, the app is essentially keeping a record of who you sleep with, when you did it and how drunk or sober you were. As if social media wasn't invasive enough already.

And a writer for Slate says it could protect a partner who goes too far. If one party changes their mind about an encounter but is forced into it anyway, proof that the victim consented at one point could be a powerful defense.

But it's widely known that sexual assault on campuses is a problem, and consent has long been a tough legal issue.

>> Read more trending stories

California recently passed a law that takes a "yes means yes" approach, meant to protect victims who were incapacitated or otherwise couldn't give consent. But it's so far the only state to have made that kind of change.

A writer for the libertarian magazine Reason says maybe apps are the answer. "Modern technology is already changing how people find romantic and sexual partners. Nowadays, people use apps like Grindr and Tindr to find sexual partners all the time. Why can't consent work the same way?"

Regardless, most outlets seem to agree that this app is unlikely to catch on, in spite of its good intentions.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:32:16 -0700

Friends defend Alameda arson suspect

Two men have been arrested for a series of arson in Alameda, police say one man was caught on surveillance tape and the other was at the scene of several of the fires.

One woman who lost her home spoke with KTVU.

"It's complete sadness. Anger will come thru every once in a while," said Marise Phillips.

She says she has owned her home for eight years and all that's left now is charred debris of her valuable belongings.

"Losing all my photos, losing all my data, losing the life that we build together here. I just feel really connected to this house," said Phillips.

Phillips says someone started a fire in her garbage can in her yard and it spread to her home early Sunday morning.

Police arrested 22-year-old Andrew Gutierrez. He was allegedly seen on surveillance video from one of the fires.

Video shows him walking across the parking lot to a dumpster and minutes later, running away.

"This clearly helps. There's nothing like actually seeing somebody in the act," said Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri about their surveillance video.

Police also arrested 27-year-old Stephen Petersen of Alameda.

"There was a firefighter and a couple of police officers who had recognized this person as being at each scene," said Chief Rolleri.

But a co-worker says he can vouch for Petersen's whereabouts at the time of the fires.

He says Petersen was working at Rooster's Roadhouse as a sound technician.

"Me and another co-worker left at around 2:05. He left a little bit before us," says James Bulman, who works as security at Rooster's Roadhouse.

Friends say Petersen was in the area of the fires because he lives nearby and was walking home from work.

"He's always talked about nonviolence. It's absolutely out of character," said Shayna Butler, Petersen's girlfriend.

Friends say Petersen is the lead guitarist for a local band called “Whistlin Past the Graveyard.”

They say he's helped organize fundraisers for victims of drunk driving and women's rights.

"He's very into his community and helping people so this is the exact opposite of something he would do," Zack Bateman

As for Marise Phillips, she says she's already forgiven whoever's responsible.

"I'm just trying to find opportunities for redemption in this, to look at the positive aspects," said the homeowner.

Phillips says she's grateful no lives were lost.  She is now staying at a motel as she starts to rebuild her home.

Both suspects are due to make their first court appearance Tuesday afternoon.

 

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:28:31 -0700

San Jose mayoral candidates face off in debate

In five weeks, the Bay Area’s largest city will have a new leader. The San Jose mayoral race is pitting San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo against Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.

On Monday night, the two candidates participated in a mayoral forum on the eBay campus. The two contenders wasted no time answering questions about pension reform.

“This issue of pension reform is really a deflection I think to take us off what's the real issue of today in this city and that's the loss of 400 police officers,” said Cortese.

Our police department shrank by 323 officers before pension reform ever passed,” said Liccardo. “It shrank for one reason because we had no money.”

Liccardo who's backed by Mayor Chuck Reed is touting fiscal responsibility and warning taxpayers spending more money on employee benefits and pay could mean cutbacks and layoffs.

“Dave Cortese has said in public debates quite recently that our officers are under pensioned and underpaid. He has no plan at all to pay them more,” said Liccardo.

Cortese, who won the June primary, is backed by police and labor unions.

His strategy is showcasing San Jose riddled with crime after the fallout of voter-approved Measure B. Parts of the controversial pension reform initiative are currently in litigation.

Right now what the public is crying out for our police patrols, neighborhood patrols and they want cops with a badge and gun showing up at their door,” said Cortese.

Key community leaders at Monday’s forum agree public safety will dominate the race.

“For first time, I’m hearing from people who live here in San Jose and they are concerned about personal safety and safety of families so I think that's number one,” said former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales.

Other key issues brought up at Monday’s forum include how to keep start-ups in Silicon Valley, affordable housing, downtown growth and land use.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:01:05 -0700

Court workers authorize strike over unfavorable contract negotiations

San Francisco court workers voted Monday evening to authorize a strike due to unfavorable negotiations over their contracts with court management.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 members had from Wednesday to today to cast their ballots, which resulted in a 91.3 percent vote announced this evening in favor for a strike, union organizer Steve Stallone said.

There has been no date set for the strike but it can happen at any time, Stallone said.

Dozens of court workers held a rally at the city's Civic Center Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon aimed at Michael Yuen, court executive officer for the San Francisco Superior Court.

Yuen manages 550 employees, oversees a $95 million budget and implements policies and procedures at the court, according to the Superior Court website.

Court workers are asking for a 3 to 3.5 percent increase in wages but court management has not offered a proposed wage in response, Stallone said.

In 2012, the city's justice system came to a halt when court workers went on strike after court management announced a 5 percent decrease in wages.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:27:40 -0700

Gov. signs 7 bills aimed at protecting human trafficking victims

Governor Jerry Brown has signed seven bills into law aimed at better protecting victims of human trafficking and supporting education and prevention to fight the problem across the state.

One law permits sex trafficking prevention education in school districts and ensures it will be considered for inclusion in the Health Framework for California Public Schools, according to the Governor’s Office.

Vanessa Scott with Love Never Fails said she is excited about the new law. Her Dublin based organization helps abuse and sex trafficking victims. They have been voluntarily providing prevention education for the past two years at various school districts around the Bay Area. 
“We are so grateful the governor has made a decision to prioritize this for our children,” Scott said.

Scott said the children most at risk are between the ages of 12 to 14. She said reaching children in middle schools and high schools is necessary.

Teresa Drenick, Spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, acknowledged the topic can be a hard for parents and teachers to talk with children about.

“Often times we think, oh that would never happen to our children, but the reality is, here in Oakland, it’s happening every day,” Drenick said.

The Alameda County D.A. Nancy O’Malley sponsored a bill also signed into law that provides for a conditional examination of a victim or material witness in a human trafficking case when there is evidence that witness has been convinced no to testify. Drenick said many times victims can be vulnerable and scared about talking on the stand or move to a different city before their case goes to trial.

“It does really ensure that that testimony is preserved because trials do take quite a long time to get going,” she added.

The D.A.’s Office has also created a their own education outreach programs for school districts complete with a three volume comic book that tells the story of a trafficked victim. Drenick said the office sent letters to all school districts in Alameda County at the start of the school year offering their educational outreach program to students.

Here’s a look at the following bills centered around sex trafficking Governor Brown signed into law:

• AB 1585 by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas): Allows a victim of human trafficking who was convicted of solicitation or prostitution, but can prove that the conviction was the result of their status as a victim of human trafficking, to petition the court to set aside the conviction.
• AB 1610 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Alameda): Permits conditional examination of a material witness or victim when a defendant has been charged with human trafficking and there is evidence the witness has been dissuaded from testifying at trial.
• AB 1791 by Assembly Member Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): Strengthens penalties for human trafficking crimes involving minors.
• SB 477 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento): Requires foreign labor contractors to register with the Labor Commissioner and penalizes intimidation, discrimination and other violations to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers.
• SB 955 by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): Adds human trafficking to the offenses for which interception of electronic communications may be ordered by a court.
• SB 1165 by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): Permits sex trafficking prevention education in school districts and ensures it will be considered for inclusion in the Health Framework for California Public Schools.
• SB 1388 by Senator Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance): Increases fines for the solicitation of an act of prostitution involving a minor.

For full text of the bills, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:32:41 -0700

Popular Corte Madera theater may be demolished for housing development

A venerable movie house in Corte Madera with Marin County's largest screen may be the next casualty of Bay Area development if the property is used for proposed high-density housing.

George Lucas' "Return of the Jedi" was one of the big blockbusters screened in advance for employees of Lucasfilms at the Century Cinema Theater, but the story of this 45-year-old single-theater movie house may not have a happy ending.

Jane Levinsohn lives across the street from the theater on Tamal Vista Boulevard. She told KTVU she was surprised when she received a flyer telling her the theater was up for sale.

The flyer said a developer wants to build 31 units of housing on the property.

"Terrible. We don't want it to happen," Levinsohn said.

The theater is hosting the opening night of this year's Mill Valley Film Festival.

"It is the first place where people saw "Apocalypse Now," "Star Wars." The first place where people saw films that had their roots in our community" said Zoe Elton, director of programming for the festival.

"I have high school kids and it has been so nice to have that theater because they can walk there. It's like a neighborhood place where I know they are safe," said Karen Cole of Larkspur.

KTVU spoke by phone with the developer Stuart Gruendl of Oakland. He said no other movie theater owner stepped up to buy it. He said the theater was "a non-starter economically."

Gruendl says the homes will be near mass transit and shopping. But some area residents counter that there is already another housing development just a quarter mile away and that more housing will only make the already bad traffic in Corte Madera worse.

"The left turn lane is slow. The carbon monoxide is terrible and people…well, you just heard the truck go by. We don't need any more vehicle traffic," said Levinsohn

The developer is set to meet for the second time with members of the community this week, but he says once escrow closes the property is his. He said he has no plans of operating a movie theater.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:51:13 -0700

Family of Novato girl killed in car accident settles wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a Novato girl who was killed by a vehicle while riding her bicycle two years ago has settled a suit against the City of Novato and the driver for $1.12 million, the family's attorney said Monday.

Tait North America, the employer of the driver who struck 12-year-old Hailey Ratliff on Sept. 27, 2012, and another defendant will pay $800,000, and the City of Novato will pay $320,000, San Francisco attorney Paul Matiasic said.

The City of Novato said Monday all but $30,000 of the $320,000 will be paid by insurance, and the city has not assumed any liability.

The Ratliff family claimed the driver, Samuel Lee Boulware Jr. of Houston, Texas, was recklessly speeding and inattentive when his rented GMC Yukon collided with Hailey on Novato Boulevard as she rode home from school, Matiasic said.

The wrongful death lawsuit claimed the City failed to trim overgrown roadside vegetation that obscured a pedestrian crossing and speed limit signs in the area.

The evidence uncovered in the lawsuit revealed Boulware was driving in excess of 65 mph despite the 45 mph speed limit in Novato city limits, Matiasic said. The speed limit decreases to 25 mph, just east of the accident site, when children are present, Matiasic said.

Novato police said Ratliff failed to yield the right-of-way to the eastbound GMC Yukon. Police said their conclusion was based on witnesses' interviews, skid analysis, toxicology tests and advanced accident reconstruction tests.

Matiasic said residents in the area of the crash west of San Marin High School raised concerns before the collision about speeding motorists entering Novato from more rural stretches of the road west of city limits.

As part of the settlement, the City of Novato agreed to evaluate engineering and roadway conditions of that stretch of Novato Boulevard, Matiasic said.

The City of Novato said it "continues to maintain that circumstances other than the design and condition of the roadway in the area where Hailey was struck were the primary factors causing the accident."

The City said, however that continued defense costs at trial would exceed the $30,000 non-insured portion of the settlement, and to "bring a measure of closure for the Ratliff family, the parties felt the best course of action was to conclude the lawsuit with a settlement."

Hailey's parents, Charles and Angela Ratliff, said in a statement, "It is our hope that Novato's agreement to evaluate the engineering and roadway conditions will lead to a safer street for all of Novato's residents, particularly children, so that no family has to endure the lasting pain of losing a child."

"Traffic engineers in the case have opined that a speed limit reduction and installation of stop signs and/or crosswalk would exponentially increase safety at this location. It is time for the City to fix this problem," Matiasic said.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:51:02 -0700

Alameda police say surveillance video helped them capture arson suspects

Surveillance video released by Alameda Police Monday afternoon appears to capture an apparent arson on camera. The video comes from a camera mounted above the back entrance of Jim’s Coffee  Shop on Lincoln and Park streets.

 In the video, a man in a hat and white shirt walks across the parking lot, behind a row of parked vans to a dumpster. The dumpster is next to a business with an apartment unit in the back.  

After a few minutes, the man starts to walk away. After taking 20 steps, the video shows him breaking out into a sprint. Minutes later, smoke billows and embers fly from the dumpster. The flames continue to grow below the apartment unit with several people inside. The video shows the residents rush out in a panic, escaping just before flames engulf the building.

Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri said the video is a key piece of evidence in their arson investigation.  

“This clearly helps,” he said. “There's nothing like actually seeing somebody in the act to help with an investigation like this.”

Two men remain in Santa Rita Jail on suspicion of arson, 27-year-old Stephen Petersen and 22-year-old Andrew Gutierrez.

Police believe Gutierrez is the man in the video.

Between 1 and 5 a.m. Sunday morning, there were seven suspicious fires within a seven block radius in Alameda. Police said Petersen was arrested near the scene of one of the fires at 2:30 Sunday morning.

“There was a firefighter and a couple of police officers who had recognized this person as being at each scene,” Rolleri said.

Two hours later, at 4:40 am, police arrested Gutierrez at the scene of the last of the seven fires at 1500 Park St, a block away from the three-alarm blaze captured on surveillance video.

Police combed through Petersen's Alameda apartment yesterday for evidence. Gutierrez doesn't appear to have a permanent home.

Police don't know what, if any, connection the two men have, and they don't know the motive.

“It's pretty much insanely out of character for him,” Zack Batement said of the arrest of Petersen, who he has known for seven years.

Petersen plays guitar in a band with him. Bateman says his friend is a peaceful community and animal rights activist who was just getting off work as a sound engineer at an Alameda club at 1:45 a.m., nearly an hour after the first arson started, and while four other fires broke out.

“He walks everywhere. He works at these venues, and he doesn't have a car,” Bateman said.

He believes his friend was in the wrong place at the wrong time

 When KTVU asked Alameda Police about the alibi from Petersen's friends, Chief Rolleri said his detectives were confident the alibi was not legitimate, although he could not elaborate on what evidence police have against Petersen, because of the ongoing investigation.   

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:59:31 -0700

San Jose police investigate young father's killing

San Jose Police are asking for the public's help in solving a homicide.

A young father was gunned down Saturday night while leaving a family dinner. Relatives say he leaves behind a pregnant wife, two children, and few clues as to why he was targeted.

According to loved ones, Richard Watkins was wise beyond his 24-years and generous to a fault.

But mostly when they think of him, they describe his devotion to his family.

"Good family man, father, wonderful father... two beautiful girls. It's hard," says Tom Volpi, the grandfather of Watkin's wife.

Volpi was hosting a family dinner Saturday, when the gunfire rang out.

He says Watkins and his wife were also expecting a third child, a boy. A son he'll never meet.

Watkins was shot and killed while packing up the car that night.

"He was just in the house with the kids and then he come over and helped me on the computer and then he went to take things out to the car. Life's changed since then," says Volpi.

Neighbors heard the gunshots and watched a car speed away.

San Jose police are investigating the crime but say no arrests have been made so far.

"It's just real sad that he's so young, and his kids are so little that something like that would happen to him," says neighbor Yolanda Vasquez.

Investigators are hoping witnesses will come forward.They're still trying to determine a motive.

"We definitely want to go ahead and reach out to the public. We definitely want to get some closure and then get some answers for the family as well," says Officer Albert Morales with the San Jose Police Department.

The family is hoping for answers, but they're also hoping for help for Watkins wife and children.

Several fundraisers are already in the works.

The family says they're also planning a candlelight vigil for Watkins Thursday night.

Anyone with information on the case should contact San Jose Police.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:52:01 -0700

Fatal Chinatown accident spurs change at dangerous intersection

There is action underway to improve the safety of a street crossing in San Francisco's Chinatown after the recent death of a woman who was fatally struck there last week.

The crossing is at Stockton and Sacramento Streets. Just days after the accident that killed 78-year-old Pui Fong Yim Lee, another person was hit and injured there.

Yim Lee used to call her children every day, reminding them to exercise and eat well. Now five sons are mourning the loss of their extraordinary mother.

"This could be just a nightmare, I'm just having a long nightmare," Geen Phone Lee told KTVU Monday. "I wake up and [expect] I will still get a call from her. But it won't happen."

Mrs. Yim Lee was a music and Chinese language teacher from the Guang Dong province. She moved to San Francisco in 1988 and became active with Chinatown civic groups, organizing a senior chorus and dance troupe.

On September 20th, she was struck and killed by a car just steps away from her apartment building in Chinatown. She lived right by the dangerous intersection.

"When I got that call that day, I couldn't believe it," Geen Phone Lee said. "I was like, 'Not possible. My mom is so healthy. She's so active; she sing and dance.'"

Transit officials call it a notorious intersection. Three days after Lee was killed, a neighbor in her building was struck and injured in the same intersection.

"Six percent of our city streets account for 60 percent of injury collisions throughout the city. And so this is one of them," said San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency spokesman Paul Rose.

There are several factors that make it dangerous. Sacramento is a narrow, one-way, two-lane street on a steep incline where it meets Stockton. Many drivers speed through the intersection on their way in or out of the Stockton Tunnel. 

The sidewalks are often crowded with tourists and senior citizens that live in the same building as Mrs. Yim Lee. Transit officials say changes are coming.

"Some of the things we're looking at are protected left turn lanes, making the bulbouts in the intersection larger so it decreases the amount of time to cross the street," said Rose.

Yim Lee's children say her death should be the last time an elderly person is injured or killed here. A memorial and rally is set for Wednesday near the intersection.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:51:51 -0700

Oakland city councilman calls for tougher restrictions on sideshows

An Oakland city councilman is calling for tougher police action following a sideshow Saturday night involving about 100 vehicles.

"It has come back to the magnitude of where it was ten years ago," councilman Larry Reid told KTVU.

There's also an internet video claiming to be of a sideshow in Oakland on Saturday that shows a vehicle spinning out of control and appearing to slam into a group of spectators.

It's not clear if that event is the same one that took place near Reid's Oakland home at 42nd Street and Interstate 880.

Reid says the sideshow near his house kept him awake for about an hour.

"It was crazy. You've got a hundred vehicles revving their engines and doing donuts in the parking lot," he said.

Oakland police wouldn't comment on camera but say they received no reports of injuries from a sideshow.

Reid says previously OPD would call in officers from surrounding cities, including Hayward, San Leandro and Emeryville to crack down on sideshows, and he says it appeared to have worked. But for some reason that's no being done anymore.

Reid says OPD needs to step up its game.

"I just hope there's some more creative thinking within the Oakland police department to help us deal with it," he told KTVU.

Mayor Jean Quan was not available for comment but Oakland councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who's a candidate for mayor, promised changes.

"The solution I'm committed to is restoring numbers in the police department and restoring the deployments to every neighborhood," she said.

Like it or not sideshows get attention.

The website posting of the sideshow has attracted more than 300,000 views as of Monday afternoon.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:25:15 -0700

Man who raised $55K for potato salad throws party

An Ohio man who raised $55,000 in a joking crowdfunding appeal to pay for his first attempt at making potato salad threw a huge public party Saturday that promised "peace, love and potato salad."

PotatoStock 2014 was held in downtown Columbus and featured bands, food trucks, beer vendors and, yes, plenty of potato salad. With more than 3,000 pounds of potatoes, the charity-minded party was open to people of all ages.

Zack Brown had jokingly sought $10 on Kickstarter in July to buy potato salad ingredients, but his mission drew global attention and earned tens of thousands of dollars.

The Idaho Potato Commission and corporate sponsors donated potato salad supplies for the party.

Brown is partnering with the Columbus Foundation to support charities that fight hunger and homelessness. The account started with $20,000 in post-campaign corporate donations and will grow after proceeds from PotatoStock are added.

"His fund will have potential way after this potato salad is forgotten," Lisa Jolley, the foundation's director of donors and development, told The Columbus Dispatch.

Brown told the newspaper that he intends to "do the most good that I can."

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:12:13 -0700

Berkeley and San Francisco both to vote on soda tax

All eyes are on two Bay Area cities to see if voters will pass a tax on soda, something that hasn't been done anywhere else in the country.

People on both sides of the soda tax debate agree things are ramping up, as mail-in ballots prepare to go out and the Election Day gets ever closer.

"This is the push," said Sara Soka, the campaign manager for the Yes on D campaign. "We are one week away from mail-in ballots landing and we know in Berkeley a lot of people get those so this is election season in high gear."

Measure D in Berkeley and Proposition E in San Francisco both propose to charge a tax on soda and sugary drinks.  It will be one cent per ounce in Berkeley and two cents in San Francisco.  

The money raised from those taxes is supposed to go towards programs to fight obesity and diabetes. In Berkeley a simple majority is needed to pass. In San Francisco the threshold is two thirds.

You can see the ramp up on people's lawns with signs announcing their position. 

"You can see them all over Berkeley," said Soka proudly.

Sam's Market co-owner Maher Ayyad still isn't sure about his stance. The market which is just feet from the campus of UC Berkeley and soda is a popular choice among students.

"We sell a lot of water when it's warmer, but general merchandise is soda. Soda and energy drinks, all sugary," explained Ayyad

He said while he sees the benefits of health programs, he's not sure that a tax is the best solution and doesn't think it will affect sales. 

"They are still going to buy their soda. They are still going to buy their energy drinks for midterms and finals," said Ayyad.

The same sentiment was echoed by Duane Lambriggert, who works in Berkeley and says he drinks soda occasionally. He agrees it's not good for him.

"No, it's not healthy but I drink a 20-ounce soda every couple of days," said Lambriggert.

The beverage industry hopes voters don't approve the tax.   The industry has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and has successfully defeated other proposals across the country.

Experts say what happens in the Bay Area could have a ripple effect.   Success here in the Bay Area could reignite efforts across the country, while failure could do the opposite. 

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:11:58 -0700

SFPD: 32 shots fired at carjacking suspect

Six San Francisco police officers fired 32 times at a carjacking suspect who crashed in the city's Financial District and turned a gun on the officers after a high-speed chase through three counties early Thursday morning, police Chief Greg Suhr said Monday afternoon.

At a community meeting to release information about the shooting, Suhr said he could not yet identify the suspect pending notification of his family but said that he was a 34-year-old East Bay resident with prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a firearm and narcotics possession.

The suspect first came to the attention of Richmond police when a woman reported that a man had tried to kidnap her as she was driving to work in her white Cadillac Escalade at 4:55 a.m. Thursday, Suhr said.

She fled the car and the suspect drove away onto Interstate Highway 580 with California Highway Patrol officers in pursuit, Suhr said.

They pursued him across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, onto southbound U.S. Highway 101 and then over the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco police joined the pursuit as the suspect drove onto city streets until officers lost sight of the Escalade near Bush and Taylor streets.

Minutes later at 5:54 a.m., police received reports of a crash involving several vehicles nearby, including a white Escalade that had tipped onto its side, police said.

Witnesses reported hearing a "loud bang" and Suhr said that the suspect fired a single shot from a six-shot revolver from the Escalade. A man who had approached the suspect to help after the crash suffered a superficial wound to his chest, but Suhr said it was not clear if he had been struck by a bullet.

The man was close enough to the suspect to taste gunpowder, Suhr said, but the bullet traveled through the roof of the SUV and struck an 11th-story window of a nearby building.

Officers arrived quickly on foot and while waiting for a less-lethal beanbag shotgun weapon to help subdue the suspect, he turned his gun at the officers, prompting six of them to open fire.

Together they fired 32 rounds at the suspect. Suhr did not know how many times the suspect was hit by gunfire, but his wounds were fatal and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A witness reported to police that there was possibly a child in the overturned Escalade, but Suhr said the witness saw only a child's car seat and that there was no child involved in the shooting.

The officers who opened fire have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol following an officer-involved shooting. The case is being investigated by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, the city's Office of Citizens Complaints and the Police Department's homicide and internal affairs units.

If there is no indication that the officers fired improperly, Suhr said they could return to duty sometime next week.

Monday's meeting was held at noon to invite community members to hear information about the shooting and to ask questions. It was scheduled for a time when many who work in the area would be on lunch break, Suhr said.

The crash and shooting happened before most downtown workers had arrived and the often-busy intersection of California and Battery streets was quiet at that time.

"An hour later ... the entire area was full of people," Suhr said, calling the timing of the crash "very fortunate."

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:03:52 -0700

Couple leaves big tip despite lousy service

A midwestern couple who left $100 on a $66 bill said they did it because the service “sucked” and they empathized with the overworked waiter. In a very short time, a Facebook post about the big tip went viral. (Source: Money.CNN.com)

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Makenzie Schultz  said in her post that the terrible service was not the waiter’s fault: 

"So here's the deal. Our service tonight sucked. Took 20 minutes to get water, 40 minutes for an appetizer and over an hour for our entree. People all around us were making fun of the restaurant & how bad the service was. Yeah, it was pretty terrible. But, it was very obvious that the issue was being short staffed, not the server. He was running around like crazy and never acted annoyed with any table. At one point we counted he had 12 tables plus the bar. More than any one person could handle! As I sat there and watched him run back & forth and apologize for the wait, I said to Steven... Wow, this used to be us. Waiting tables. I don't miss it at all and I never loved that job. I did it for the tips. Steven and I agreed it would feel good to make this guys night when he would probably be getting minimal to no tips due to slow service. We walked out before he saw this and I'm not posting this for a pat on the back. I'm just sharing this as a friendly reminder to think of the entire situation, before you judge. And always always always remember where you came from. — with Steven Schultz."

 

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:32:55 -0700

Highway 37 weeknight closures canceled after weekend work

Caltrans has canceled the overnight closure of state Highway 37 that was scheduled for Monday night and later this week.

Caltrans crews over the weekend completed major maintenance and paving on Highway 37 between state Highway 29 in Solano County and state Highway 121 in Sonoma County.

Crews were scheduled to finish the work by 5 a.m. today but completed it early at 1:30 a.m., Caltrans spokesman Vince Jacala said.

Crews were initially planning to close Highway 37 again between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday through Friday this week, but instead will finish the work without full highway closures, Jacala said.

Crews repaved approximately seven miles of eastbound and westbound Highway 37 between Highways 29 and 121 over the past two weekends, Jacala said.

He said about 40,000 motorists use that stretch of Highway 37 daily.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:54:04 -0700

3 from FDNY who worked at ground zero die in 1 day

Three retired firefighters who worked at ground zero have died on the same day from cancer, an illness that many fear might be connected to toxic World Trade Center dust released on Sept. 11, fire officials said.

Lt. Howard Bischoff, 58, and firefighters Robert Leaver, 56, and Daniel Heglund, 58, died within hours of one another Monday.

Their deaths are "a painful reminder that 13 years later we continue to pay a terrible price for the department's heroic efforts," Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.

Thousands of people who aided in the rescue and recovery effort were diagnosed with respiratory ailments and other health problems in the years after the attacks. Cancer, though, remains the biggest fear for people exposed to the gritty soot at the site.

Hundreds of first responders have gotten cancer in the 13 years since the attacks, but doctors and researchers are still uncertain whether there is any link between those illnesses and 9/11. Cancer is the leading cause of death for Americans in their mid-40s to mid-60s, making it hard to tell which deaths, if any, might be related. Most medical studies have not found evidence of a substantial surge in cancer rates, though researchers have spotted some worrisome trends.

Congress has set aside $2.78 billion to compensate people with illnesses that might be related to the attacks. Administrators of the fund have included the most common types of cancer as qualifying illnesses.

"On that day when first responders arrived, the air was toxic and remained toxic for many months afterward," said James Lemonda, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.

The Fire Department of New York lost 343 firefighters on 9/11. The department maintains a memorial to 89 other firefighters it believes died of illnesses. That tally doesn't yet include Bischoff, Leaver or Heglund.

Their deaths come as advocates urge Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation to those who got sick from exposure to toxic air after Sept. 11.

Fire officials knew the three were sick, said Lemonda, whose union represents fire lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals in the FDNY. One had leukemia, one had esophageal cancer and the third had colon cancer.

Funerals for Leaver and Heglund were scheduled for Friday. The service for Leaver will be held at Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack at 10 a.m. Heglund's funeral will be at the Centerport Volunteer Firehouse at 10:30 a.m.

A funeral for Bischoff will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, New Jersey.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 13:11:29 -0700

What the Kansas sex toy auction is really about

The headlines promise a sexy story — a state resorting to the sale of sex toys to fill a budget shortfall.

And there's truth to it — Kansas is getting money from the auctioning of adult toys to recoup some taxes owed to the state. But the whole thing needs some explanation. 

So, an adult store chain called Bang owes the state of Kansas around $160,000 in taxes. To recoup that money, the state is allowing for the sale of the store's products. And that includes lingerie and, well, anything else you'd expect to find in an adult store. 

The chosen auctioning business is Equip-Bid. It's the largest — and definitely the most unique — auction the group has ever held.

Equip-Bid CEO Andy O'Hanlon via KSHB: "We've done hundreds of auctions over the years. But never this type of adult content. ... This isn't something you normally would do or encounter on a daily basis that you could buy online in an auction format."

And in case you were wondering — any money the auction makes beyond the $160,000 or so it's due goes back to the owner of Bang. 

But it's also become something of a political battle. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a Republican who cut taxes during his tenure, and the state's Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley is arguing those cuts forced the state to get "in the porn business." 

But an editorial in The Topeka Capital-Journal notes, "There is nothing personal about the auction, it's strictly business."

And in truth — the state has often seized property to collect money owed. Though we can't blame anyone for the interest in the story given the inventory. 

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:17:57 -0700

Airstrikes are big business for defense companies

Airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have served as launching point for far more than missiles. Those military decisions cost the U.S. millions of dollars a day, and defense contractors pocket much of that money. (Video via U.S. Navy)

Bloomberg reports in mid-September just ahead of airstrikes in Syria, defense firms Lockheed Martin, Northrop, Raytheon and General Dynamics Corporation all set stock price records.

A chief investment officer based out of Chicago said, "To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity."

"Presenting an opportunity" is the kind of wording to make anti-war advocates cringe, but there's no doubt the companies and their shareholders are making money off the unusually large number of conflicts around the world.

Take those videos the Navy keeps releasing of Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles being fired into Syria. They're manufactured by Raytheon.

In its budget request for 2015, the Defense Department estimated it spent nearly $325 million on procuring 196 missiles this year, along with research, development, testing and evaluation. That's an average of more than $1.6 million a missile.

And then there's the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, a technological marvel that could both outpace and outmaneuver any of its predecessors, according to military officials. (Video via Lockheed Martin)

But the Lockheed Martin jet program saw plenty of scrutiny for a price tag in the tens of billions, and — until airstrikes like this one in Syria — the $143 million-per-plane jets had seen no combat.

That, of course, has critics pointing to what they call the cyclical nature of defense companies who both profit when the U.S. goes to war and donate to lawmakers' re-election campaigns.

Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks: "What are we buying with those billions of dollars? More war. You're going to do drone strikes? Great, I get paid. You're going to do a ground invasion? Boy, you're going to need a lot of logistical help. I get paid."

In fact, the D.C.-based defense think tank CSBA estimates if the U.S. continues with moderate airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, the cost will range from $200 million to $300 million a month, but that cost obviously goes up as military involvement increases. Plus, "future costs depend, to a great extent, on how long operations continue."

Military spending levels also depend on your point of view. Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the U.S. well over $1 trillion, that's nothing compared to wars of a previous generation.

Congressional Research Service estimates spending during World War II accounted for 37.5 percent of our GDP at its peak in 1945 compared to 4.3 percent for Iraq and Afghanistan. (Video via History Channel)

Last year, The Financial Times reported total spending on the war in Iraq sent $139 billion to contractors. That report followed a 2011 commissioned report to Congress that estimated somewhere between $31 billion to $60 billion was lost to contract waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Published: Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:17:52 -0700