<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Top News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sat, 28 Mar 2015 23:14:19 -0700 Sat, 28 Mar 2015 23:14:19 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[49ers' Miller Pushed Woman, Destroyed Phone: PD]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 06:59:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0309-2015-BruceMiller.jpg

San Francisco 49ers fullback Bruce Miller was arrested after a fight at a South Bay bagel shop, where he allegedly pushed a woman to the ground and destroyed her cell phone, a Santa Clara police report indicates.

CSN's Matt Maiocco first tweeted the story. NBC  Bay Area obtained the condensed one-page report from police outlining some of the details. The altercation occurred on March 5 at Posh Bagel in the Rivermark Plaza, the reports indicate. The woman's identity was not revealed, and the report, signed by the police chief, does not indicate what the fight was about.

Miller, 27, was arrested on the same day shortly before midnight on at the Santa Clara Marriott on Mission College Boulevard on one count of spousal battery, and released on $10,000 bail. Spousal battery could mean a spouse or a "co-habitant." The woman's relationship to Miller was not spelled out in the report. The Mercury News reports that Miller got engaged in August.

Miller has not been charged with any crime. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office confirmed on Thursday that Miller’s case is under review.

The 49er could face up to one year in county jail and a $2,000 fine if he is charged and convicted of the offense.

In a statement earlier this week , the team said: "The San Francisco 49ers organization is aware of the matter involving Bruce Miller. We were disappointed to learn of these reports and will do our due diligence in collecting all relevant information."

Miller's arrest is the 11th arrest for the team since 2012.

In two of the more recent cases, former defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested twice since August, on suspicion of domestic violence and sexual assault. No charges were filed in first case, and the December "rape by intoxication" arrest is still being reviewed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney. Last week, reports surfaced through McDonald's agent that he would not be charged, though he has been released by the team.

Also, linebacker Aldon Smith was convicted of DUI and weapons offenses in July, which led to a nine-game suspension last season and 11 days in a work program.

Both McDonald and Smith have sold their San Jose homes.
 

 



Photo Credit: Santa Clara Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands of Oil Wells Are Dumping into Protected Aquifers]]> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:18:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/fracking1.jpg

In a stunning admission, the California Environmental Protection Agency wrote on Monday that state officials have allowed thousands of oil and fracking wells to dump waste water into protected underground aquifers.

In an enclosure to a letter dated Feb. 6 to the US EPA, California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) admitted that more than 2,500 wells were injecting waste into aquifers protected by the EPA. The state EPA released a memo on March 2 confirming the findings.

The memo was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown and John Laird, California's Secretary of Natural Resources. The letter indicated that 2,100 of the 2,500 offending waste water wells are currently active. The state Water Board has identified 200 of those wells that are of the "highest concern."

Oil extraction and hydraulic fracturing generates large amounts of waste water which can contain toxic chemicals such as silica and arsenic. That water is supposed to be dumped into underground aquifers that are already unusable for human consumption--so called "exempt" aquifers. "Non-exempt" aquifers are sources of clean water that could potentially be used for drinking or irrigation.

“It’s inexcusable,” said Hollin Kretzmann when NBC Bay Area first reported on this story in November. Kretzmann works for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we’re allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It’s possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably.”

At that time only nine wells were known to be dumping into clean aquifers. By February, that number would climb to 2,500.

Most, if not all, of these wells were regulated and approved by state authorities, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources(DOGGR). In the letter sent on Monday, the state EPA wrote that in half of the 2,500 cases, DOGGR did not review local district permitting decisions when approving the wells. Nor did the agency standardize guidance for which wells should or should not have been permitted.

Since last summer, 11 waste water wells have been shut down. And now, DOGGR has ordered 12 more wells to be shut down. The agency says it is conducting a second review of all permits to correct any further errors.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA["Pineapple Express" Storm Headed to NorCal]]> Wed, 04 Feb 2015 09:54:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/bayarearain2.jpg

A full month of winter sun, without any rain drops from the sky, has put many Californians on edge, even though they've been hiking and picnicking outside in the hot sun on the weekends. 

But this week, meteorologists are predicting the clouds will darken and rain will fall in two rounds, starting Thursday night and lasting through at least the weekend, perhaps into Monday.

NBC Bay Area Meteorologist Christina Loren says the rainfall will be "ample" and even have the "potential for flooding," adding that January's "stubborn, high pressure" system might finally push out of the area.

Conditions in the Pacific are generating what appears to be a strong "Pineapple Express" storm expected to hit Northern California and create a warm, powerful system known as an "atmospheric river."

The National Weather Service predicts between three to five inches of rain will fall over the North Bay, and up to 1 1/2 inches will scatter across the remaining urban areas through Monday.

All that would be great news to offset the driest January in California history and ease water woes from San Jose to Los Angeles as the state is heading into its fourth year of drought.

While January was bone dry, December made it into the history books as one of San Jose's wettest in history.

For the Bay Area, the National Weather Service is predicting a 30 percent chance of rain on Thursday night, an 80 percent chance of heavy rain on Friday, and more rain likely on Saturday through Monday.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Van Fire at Home for Mentally Disabled Adults]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 07:37:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fire146.jpg

Firefighters put out a van fire in San Jose Tuesday morning in front of a home for mentally disabled adults.

The first call came in at 3:55 a.m. in the 1400 block of Donohue Drive in the Berryessa neighborhood, San Jose firefighters said.

Crews had the blaze under control at 4:26 a.m., and no one was injured, though the fire did spread to the garage.
 



Photo Credit: Alan Waples]]>
<![CDATA[List of Wastewater Wells Dumping into Aquifers Grows ]]> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 21:15:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/9-20-2013-fracking.jpg

A total of 532 injection wells are now suspected of dumping toxic wastewater left over from oil and gas extraction into protected clean water aquifer, according to California’s Water Resources control board.

This revelation follows an investigation into this practice first exposed by NBC Bay Area in November, 2014 . The Investigative Unit showed that state officials had been allowing oil and gas companies to dump dangerous chemicals into pristine underground aquifers that are federally protected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

At the time, only nine wells were known to be dumping their wastewater into protected aquifers in violation of federal EPA guidelines.

Most of those nine wells are located in or around Bakersfield in Kern County. Now California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), in an e-mail to the US Environmental Protection Agency, says the questionable injection wells number in the hundreds and are located all over the state. They appear near Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Paso Robles and Los Angeles as well as Kern County.

In a letter to both California’s Water Resources Control Board and California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the EPA demands that the state come up with a workable plan to halt this practice and bring this program of wastewater injection into federal compliance by February 15, 2017.

The EPA wants to see that revised plan by February 6, 2015.

The wastewater is a by-product of several processes used to recover oil and gas from deep underground, including the use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking.’

Fracking uses thousands of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and abrasives such as silica to break up rocks deep underground to free oil deposits within the rocks.

The toxic wastewater re-injected at these well sites went into what the state and the EPA call “non-exempt” aquifers. “Non-exempt” aquifers are underground bodies of water that tests show are clean enough that it could have been used by humans.

When the oil is brought up to the surface, it is mixed with this water and chemical mixture, separated and recovered. The industry must then dispose of the briny water mixed with chemicals. For decades, oil and gas companies were permitted to re-inject this wastewater into aquifers that already had higher levels of solids and chemicals in them, what the EPA refers to as “exempt aquifers.”

Now, as the Investigative Unit previously revealed , it’s known that state regulators issued permits for oil and gas companies to inject that same wastewater into aquifers that the EPA considered “non-exempt” or clean enough for human consumption.

The California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) admitted back in October that oil and gas companies were issued permits by the state to dump their wastewater in those protected aquifers.

“In multiple different place of the permitting process an error could have been made,” said Marshall. “When you’re talking about wells that were permitted in 1985 to 1992, we’ve tried to go back and talk to some of the permitting engineers, and it’s unfortunate but in some cases they’re deceased.”

“The state board can now confirm that these aquifers that should have been protected are now contaminated,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “They’ve been contaminated over a number of years and the state has done nothing to stop that.”

“It’s high quality water. This water is suitable for drinking or irrigation,” added Kretzmann. “That’s a huge concern and communities who rely on water supply wells near these injection wells have a lot of reason to be concerned that they’re finding high levels of arsenic and thallium and other chemicals nearby where these injection wells have been allowed to operate.”

The state admits that some drinking water wells located nearby these injection wells have tested positive for higher than acceptable levels of toxic chemicals such as Arsenic, Nitrates and Thallium. They say that tests so far indicate those chemicals did not come from the injection of wastewater nearby.

“We are still comparing the testing of what was the injection water to what is the tested water that came out of these wells to find out if they were background levels or whether that’s the result of oil and gas operation, but so far it’s looking like it’s background,” said DOGGR’s Jason Marshall back in November, 2014.

In a statement issued to NBC Bay Area, Western States Petroleum spokesman Tupper Hull said “There has never been a bona fide claim or evidence presented that the paperwork confusion resulted in any contamination of drinking supplies near the disputed injection wells.”

Even so, the EPA is clearly concerned. They’ve set a 2017 deadline for California to completely fix the problem.


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<![CDATA[Measles Case Prompts Quarantine of 14 Infants]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 08:09:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/santa+monica+high.jpg

More than a dozen infants enrolled at a Santa Monica day care center were quarantined after a baby was confirmed to have measles, officials said Monday.

The Santa Monica High School Infant Toddler Center was closed Monday until further notice, two days after the center was alerted that a child under 1-year-old who attends came down with the virus, officials said.

The baby was too young to be vaccinated.

Fourteen infants under the age of 12-months-old who were exposed to the baby will be quarantined for 21 days, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.

The day care center serves school staff, community members and three teen parents who attend the high school.

A letter went out to parents of the 24 children enrolled in the day care, for children aged 6 months to 3 years, officials said.

It's the second case of measles at the school -- a high school coach was diagnosed with measles in January, but school was kept open after officials determined students were at low risk for contracting the highly infections virus.

Jalil Norman, a student at Santa Monica High School, said he was relieved when he discovered he had been vaccinated.

"I asked my mom... once I heard about the measles outbreak... did I get my measles shots?' "She said 'yes... thank God,'" Norman said.

Vanessa Ruiz, and City News Service contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Scott Spiro/File photo]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Drone Captures Beautiful Sunset]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:32:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/drone-sunset-still.jpg Jonathan Harper's drone caught a colorful sunset over New York City, one day after a storm covered the city in snow. ]]> <![CDATA[Principal Accused of Stealing Student Money]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 17:03:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/main-logo.jpg

A high school administrator in San Jose opened an unauthorized bank account, spent hundreds of dollars on clothing, massages and meals, and wrote checks to herself and to cash, according to school district records obtained exclusively by NBC Bay Area. 

Cary Catching, the former principal of San Jose High School, opened a bank account in 2010 linked to the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), even though that’s clearly against district policy. 

Parents, teachers and faculty have since questioned purchases tied to the account and accuse her of stealing money intended for students. Many also question the way San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) responded after the allegations of theft surfaced.

“You cannot be in education, work for children and be taking away money which other people have donated to programs and kids,” said parent volunteer Anjali Mehta.

At San Jose High, parent participation is not as robust as at other Bay Area schools. Mehta devotes hours to the school. She runs the snack bar during school football games and organizes student fundraisers for the district, which provides reduced-priced lunch for 45 percent of the student population. 

“We fight for every single dollar that we need to put back into programs for the kids,” Mehta said.

Principal Opens Unauthorized Account

In a Sept. 30, 2010 email provided to the Investigative Unit, Catching writes to the PTSA, “I actually went to the bank and did this all today,” in reference to opening a petty cash account in the name of the PTSA.

District policy advises school administrators not to make purchases with PTSA funds, sign on PTSA banking accounts or comingle PTSA money with student body funds. Parents are supposed to run the PTSA and decide how and where to spend the money. But district records show Catching was the one calling the shots. Parents and teachers say the account served as Catching’s personal piggybank; a private slush fund that only she controlled.

According to a district audit of the account, from September 2010 to May 2013 Catching spent thousands of dollars at restaurants including $518 at Original Joe’s in downtown San Jose and $135 at nearby steakhouse McCormick and Schmick’s. She also spent hundreds on clothing and massages for staff, lotto tickets, and wrote a $160 check to the National Kidney Foundation. 

The district identified roughly $7,300 worth of expenses “without receipts or explanations” over three years. The expenses included several checks for hundreds of dollars that Catching made out to herself and one check she wrote to “cash” for $1,765.48. 

The district’s audit reveals how Catching spent the money, but it is unclear where exactly the money came from. One individual, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by the district, told the Investigative Unit that Catching may have taken the money directly from cashboxes at school football games and dances. 

“She would take it and count it; some was taken out and some was left in,” the insider said. “There is such a shortage of school money right now and to have money disappear that could be helping our community, our students and or staff—that is appalling to me.”

Former San Jose High School math teacher Clinton Loo claimed that Catching may have skimmed off of a fundraiser to benefit Project Horizon, the school’s travel-study program. He said that he and another teacher gave Catching the cash to deposit into the project’s bank account. 

“It was exactly $500 short,” Loo said. “We were both incredulous. We didn’t know what happened. We had double counted the money ourselves and we’d never made a mistake like that before. Five hundred dollars is not a small amount. If it was $20 or $40 you can understand how a bill gets stuck together. But $500 is a stack of twenties. Somewhere something was missing.”

In December 2013, the district called police after $1,600 in cash disappeared from the safe at San Jose High. District officials confirmed that they questioned the principal, but the police didn’t make any arrests. 

Superintendent Remains Silent

District superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews turned down repeated requests for an interview to discuss concerns by parents and teachers that Catching stole money from students. Matthews declined to answer questions before a school board meeting earlier this month, insisting repeatedly that only the public information officer, Jorge Quintana, would be available for an interview. 

Quintana said that the district started asking questions in December 2013 after hearing rumors that Catching controlled the PTSA account.

“We did what we were supposed to do and that was to question the employee,” Quintana said. 

But Quintana said the district stopped investigating when Catching resigned a month later. He said SJUSD didn’t try to recoup any money because the district doesn’t have authority over the PTSA. The California Sixth District PTA, which serves SJUSD schools, said it is “not available to discuss specifics concerning San Jose High School.” 

Catching declined multiple requests for comment about the petty cash account, allegations of theft and circumstances surrounding the school safe, and she did not answer questions when the Investigative Unit visited the San Mateo County Office of Education where Catching now works as the Director of Safe and Supportive Schools

She also declined to discuss what happened to facility rental fees tied to San Jose High School. 

Rental Fees Never Paid to District 

Through a public records request, NBC Bay Area found that the district never received rental fees from Kevin Blunt, the owner of a men’s basketball camp called Crossover Elite. The group’s website boasts photos of multiple tournaments in 2011 that were held at San Jose High’s gym. Blunt is also named in the district’s 2012 calendars as having rented the school’s facilities. 

The district has no record of any payments from Blunt. At a cost of $40 per hour plus fees, the Investigative Unit found that the district was not paid for at least $10,808 in 2012 alone. 

Blunt said that he paid the district for use of the facilities but when asked if he could provide invoices, he said he would contact his attorney. He later emailed to say that he would have “no further comments.” 

“Whoever rented the facility paid someone and it didn’t go to the district or to the school,” the insider said. 

Quintana agreed that it is possible Catching took payment from Blunt for the use of the school’s gym. He said that the district discovered in the summer of 2013 that it hadn’t received payment from Blunt. When asked why the district didn’t contact police about the missing money, Quintana said the district “did what we were supposed to do” which was to question Catching. 

Quintana said the district is trying to recoup the money and recently strengthened the process for renting facilities to ensure school staff can’t receive payment without the district’s knowledge. 

But the district’s inquiry into what happened to the missing money hasn’t satisfied parents and staff, including Loo, the former math teacher. 

“If there is a body of evidence that shows there was a mismanagement of funds, I think people should know about it,” Loo said.

Mehta is now the president of San Jose High’s new Parent Teacher Organization—the PTO. The group severed ties with the PTSA in 2014.

“San Jose High, it’s a fantastic school but we don’t have that many extra resources like a lot of other schools,” Mehta said. “Let’s make this small village a big army to help our kids do better at school.”

If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit email theunit@nbcbayarea.com, or call 888-996-TIPS. 


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<![CDATA[Measles Cases Linked to Disneyland]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 05:36:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DisneylandWeb.jpg

At least nine people confirmed to have highly infectious measles visited Disneyland parks in Southern California last month, health officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Public Health confirmed seven cases of measles in the state, and two others in Utah. Three more California residents are also suspected to have measles, but those cases are not confirmed.

The nine confirmed to have measles said they visited Disneyland and/or Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, 2014. The source of the infection is still under investigation, but health officials said it's likely that a person with measles was at one of the theme parks during that time period.

A spokeswoman for Disneyland told NBC4 Thursday that it is safe to visit the park. The only dates in which visitors were at risk are Dec. 15 to 20, according to the spokeswoman.

"We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can," said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

A Disneyland spokesperson said further questions will be directed to the Department of Public Health.

The Borbons of San Jose visited the theme park during the infection window. No one in the family is showing any symptoms. The family also said all of their vaccinations are up to date.

"You don't ever want to get a virus," Kristine Borbons said. "It's a little scary, but I don't think it's to a hysterical point."

The confirmed cases in California live in Alameda, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties and in Pasadena. They range in age from 8 months to 21 years.

Six of the seven California cases were not vaccinated for measles, including two who were too young to be vaccinated, officials said. One had been vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Both Utah cases were not vaccinated, a Utah Department of Health spokeswoman said.

People can be infectious with measles for nine days. Measles typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes and within a few days a red rash appears, usually first on the face and then spreads downward to the rest of the body. Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease.

Measles has been eliminated in the United States since 2000, but outbreaks have occurred in Western Europe, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines, health officials said. Disneyland and other theme parks are international attractions with visitors from all over the world, including areas where measles is an epidemic.

More information about measles can be found on the California Department of Public Health website.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Special Report: Investing with the Stars]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:48:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2014-10-01-jared-leto.jpg

I’m hustled down a hallway, for a secretive, exclusive one-on-one. No one can see, and the crowds are kept away.  The handler says “You’ll have three minutes.”

This, as you might imagine, rarely happens when we reporters talk to Venture Capitalists.

This is no ordinary VC, though. It’s Jared Leto, heartthrob thespian and winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (“Dallas Buyer’s Club”), certified rock star (“30 Seconds To Mars”), and tech investor.

Within seconds of talking to him, you can tell that Leto is the real deal. Yeah, sure he’s handsome, famous, etc, etc. He also knows his technology, having invested in rising startups like Zenefits, Surfair, and Wish, while starting his own companies that blend art and technology.

 “Artists deserve a seat at the tech table,” Leto says, to explain why an already stratospherically famous person would seek out tech startups. “I’m looking for creative opportunities, and I see a lot of creativity in technology.”

Leto joins a growing list of well-known entertainers jumping into tech with their wallets. Ashton Kutcher invested in AirBnB. Jada Pinkett-Smith invested in a safety app called bSafe. Andy Samberg, T.I., Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake, the list goes on. Clearly, tech is the hot spot for famous people.

They tweet, they show up to board meetings. They’re clearly serious about learning and making money. Kutcher recently spoke at TechCrunch “Disrupt,” telling the crowd that he looks for creative people and good ideas, not “people talking about market cap and social media platforms.”

At a recent Consumer Electronic Show (think: geek paradise) in Las Vegas, I saw no fewer than three rappers talking up headphones. 50 Cent, insisting that sound quality made his ‘phones the best; Ludacris, talking about why his brand is aimed exclusively at the high-end listener; and of course, Dr. Dre, who started Beats Electronics, brought celebrities like Lady GaGa into the fold, and just sold his company to Apple for a cool $3 billion.

So, again, why take the time to invest? Well, according to Forbes, Dr. Dre is now worth $620 million. Who wouldn’t want to play that role?

Scott can be found interviewing famous people on Twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[These Donors May Miss Senator Boxer the Most]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 13:03:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/186*120/01-08-2015-barbara-boxer-2.jpg

When Senator Boxer leaves the Senate in 2016, the 33-year congressional veteral will leave a long legacy in many fields in California. But in terms of campaign donations, her absense will be felt most by those in the entertainment industry, women’s rights and the Silicon Valley tech industry.

In an analysis with the non-partisan research organization MapLight, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit took a look at the numbers and broke down who Boxer’s biggest financial campaign supporters have been over the years.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, topping the list of Boxer’s campaign contributors during her career were people associated with Emily’s List—the political action committee that aims to elect Democratic women to office.

Also high on the list of donors were people associated with The University of California.

Time Warner, Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Company were almost among the top 10 donors. And Cisco Systems was the top donor from Silicon Valley over the years, followed by Qualcomm, Kaiser Permanente, Oracle and Google.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Critic Weighs In on CPUC President's Legacy]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:56:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tonyandpeevey.png

For a dozen years, Michael Peevey has occupied one of the most powerful seats in California. As president of the Public Utilities Commission, he has the power to control the companies that bill consumers for electricity, gas and water.

His legacy includes presiding over the CPUC during the deadly San Bruno explosion in 2010 and accepting a safety award just months after the agency was accused of failing to properly regulate Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that those mistakes contributed to the disaster that killed eight people and injured dozens more.

Peevey’s legacy also includes a leaked internal survey in 2013 when his employees accused the agency of an overly cozy relationship with utility companies. Last year Peevey decided to dodge requests from senators to answer questions at the state capitol, opting instead to attend a conference at an exclusive Napa winery with utility representatives among other invitees.

“Michael Peevey’s legacy is a degradation of a principled man who did a lot of good in his life,” said consumer advocate Harry Snyder. “He became holier than thou he could do no wrong.”

Snyder lectures at UC Berkeley and recently criticized Peevey and Governor Jerry Brown in an opinion column in the Sacramento Bee.

“Michael Peevey should have resigned a long time ago,” Snyder said.

During his tenure as CPUC president, Peevey accepted more than $165,000 in free travel from nonprofit groups, many of which received funding from the utility companies the CPUC regulates.

Now, Peevey finds himself in the middle of a scandal, and under investigation by the United States Attorney and the state Attorney General for questionable meetings with top PG&E executives. An internal PG&E email serves as the center of the investigation because it details how Peevey asked PG&E to contribute more than $1 million to a CPUC anniversary celebration and a political cause Peevey supported.

“You don’t say things like that unless you think you are above the law,” Snyder said. “You don’t write something like that unless you think you are above the law. So these men think they are above the law. Michael Peevey is going to be the shadow that follows Jerry Brown everywhere.”

Whether Brown should have removed Peevey as president of the commission remains a lingering question as Peevey prepares to close the door on a dozen years directing the California Public Utilities Commission. Just days after inappropriate emails between PG&E and the CPUC became public, PG&E fired three top executives. In contrast, Brown allowed Peevey to finish his term in the president’s seat.

“It’s bologna, its self-serving excuses for doing the wrong thing,” Snyder said. “And Jerry Brown is not serving the people of the state of California. Not serving the people of San Bruno but serving, his own political interests. It’s just unacceptable.”

The governor’s office has declined multiple requests for an interview about why he did not ask Peevey to relinquish his position as CPUC president. Brown told the Associated Press that the emails were “troubling” and that he wanted to wait for the results of the federal and state investigations.

If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit email theunit@nbcbayarea.com or call 888-996-TIPS.

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<![CDATA[An Uber Is Cheaper Than A Taxi (Except When It's Not)]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:57:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/184*120/taxi14.jpg

Ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar like to claim that they're cheaper than taxi cabs. If you're in one of the 25 markets where Uber cut prices by 25% last summer, it's probably a patently true claim. NBC Bay Area reporter Sam Brock checked prices in and around San Francisco last summer and found that UberX prices easily beat out taxi cabs, especially for longer trips.

Pretty much the only time when taxis might be cheaper than a ride-hailing service is when "dynamic pricing" is in effect. Better known as "Surge" pricing (or "Prime Time" for Lyft users), the ride service companies regularly increase prices during times of high demand. A fascinating blog post from the people who make What's the Fare showed that price increases happen more than you might think, making ride-hailing apps a bit less thrify than they seem.

Here's a chart they drew up showing how many rides each day are "normal" (in blue) and how many are are in "Surge" or "Prime Time." On some days more than half the rides are price-increased.

What's the Fare is a website that estimates and compares prices and travel times for users of Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and yes, taxis. The site's creators, Jonathan Goldman and Matthew Liu, used to work on software and product at companies like Youtube and Bonobos. They're currently working on a not-yet-launched business in the transportation space, and launched What's the Fare as a side project. The site was only launched in early September, but was shared widely on sites like Hacker News and Lifehacker, sending more than a hundred thousand users to the site in just a few weeks. The two used data from these thousnads of requests to compare the ride service companies at different times and price levels.

Yet, even with the dyanamic pricing, the pair concluded that taxis lose out most of the time:

The results are quite clear. In the overwhelming majority of cases, even with dynamic pricing at least one ride-sharing service offers a lower price than a taxi almost all the time in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and 85% of the time in New York.

What's the Fare found that maybe the one place where taxis do have a bit of an edge is in the weekday commute. Unsurprisingly, prices for Uber and Lyft are higher on weekday mornings and evenings: Of couse, availability is another issue. In a separate post, the site mapped dynamic pricing in San Francisco neighorhoods. The darker color means a higher incidence of price increases by Uber or Lyft. This screencap shows the commute for a Monday morning, but you can select different time periods on their posted interactive. I find the geographical data more telling than the pricing information. In What's the Fare's map, the expected places light up in red: Downtown, SoMa, the Mission. But there's also some surprises, namely the Richmond and Presidio Heights. These are places where it's a lot harder to get a taxi and where a taxi driver might be less willing to go, for the difficulty of finding another fare.

The map brings to mind Cabspotting, a unique project the Exploratorium took up a few years ago to track and map taxis in real-time. The map, made by Stamen Design, depicts taxis as a series of ghostly threads that appear brighter and sharper where they travel more often. The city has a bright, active center downtown and in SoMa but rapidly fades the farther you look west or south.

It's worth mentioning that there are considerations other than price. Despite recent legislation, drivers for ride-hailing app companies don't have the same levels of commercial insurance that licensed taxi drivers have. And it's actually illegal for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate at many airports. An NBC Bay Area investigation showed that drivers routinely broke the law with their company's blessing. Soon after that story, Uber and Lyft both secured agreements with SFO but they may not have the right permissions with airports in other markets.



Photo Credit: Dave Newman / Flickr
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<![CDATA[Nextdoor Wants to Make Trick-or-Treating More Efficient]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 17:38:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/nextdoor2.jpg

Nextdoor, the Bay Area company that lets neighbors communicate with each other about everything from local schools to local crime, is now turning its focus to Halloween.

The company's new "Treat map" will let users know which house has what candy, and how children can have a safe (and possibly more efficient) trick or treating experience.

As a Nextdoor user, you can let neighbors know that you'll be giving out candy on the 31st - just press a button, and a candy corn icon appears on your house. Along with fighting crime, and advertising the garage sale down the street, "This is just one of many ways we are leveraging the power of technology to bring you closer to the people who live right next door," says Nextdoor's Anne Dreshfield on the company's blog.

So, put on the costume, check the web (or your iPhone), and get that candy.

Scott's treats are on twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[Minnie Driver's Son Picked Out One Crazy Halloween Costume]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:30:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/457177114.jpg Minnie Driver's talks to Seth Meyer's about her 6-year-old son's "eccentric" choices in Halloween costumes. ]]> <![CDATA[Plane Briefly Quarantined After Ebola Scare]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:25:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/10-10-14_ebola-las-vegas-plane.jpg

A plane was briefly quarantined at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport Friday after a report that a passenger on the plane was showing symptoms similar to Ebola.

The Delta Airlines Flight left New York's JFK International Airport  Friday morning, bound for Las Vegas. Six ambulances surrounded the plane at Terminal 1, according to Las Vegas station KSNV.

Shortly after landing, the plane was quarantined at the gate "after reports that a passenger who had recently traveled in Africa vomited on board the aircraft," according to a statement from airport officials.

"After a thorough assessment, it has been determined that the affected passenger does not meet the criteria for Ebola," according to the airport statement. All passenger were allowed to exit the plane after the medical assessment, according to Delta.

The response included representatives from the Clark County Fire Department, Centers for Disease Control and the Southern Nevada Health District.

The quarantine comes a day after travel plans were disrupted for passengers due to concerns about Ebola aboard another flight. Passengers were told to remain on the plane from Philadelphia after it landed in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic so crews in hazardous materials suits could check on a passenger who reportedly sneezed and said, "I have Ebola."

Earlier this week, federal authorities announced an additional layer of screening would begin at New York's JFK International and the international airports in Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago and Atlanta as part of a response to the Ebola epidemic. The new steps would include taking temperatures and would begin Saturday at JFK, according to the White House.

A Liberian man who had come to the U.S. with Ebola died Wednesday. Forty-two-year-old Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed in the U.S. with the disease, had come to Dallas in late September.



Photo Credit: KSNV-TV]]>
<![CDATA[California Water Regulators are Water Wasters]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:02:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sprinkler2_tavos_mata_machado_flickr.jpg

As California's worst drought in decades continues, The Center for Investigative Reporting(CIR) has found out that many water regulators are themselves wasting water at home. In a collaboration with NBC Los Angeles, CIR obtained water bills showing "nearly half of the officials who supervise the state's biggest water agencies used more water than the typical California household."

It's these regulators who have been imposing mandatory water reduction restrictions in cities everywhere in California.

CIR took advantage of an interesting aspect of public records law:

Water bills for most Californians are confidential. But bills for officials who set water rates and policies are public under the state’s open records law.

CIR obtained bills for 150 officials at 22 different agencies. They found three officials who pumped more than 1 million gallons a year during the drought. A total of 11 officials pumped more than 1,100 gallons per day, three times the state's average, 361 gallons per day.

Not too surprisingly, most of the offending officials were in Southern and Central California where temperatures run hotter and swimming pools are more common. CIR based its statistics off of a 2011 study commissioned by the state Department of Water Resources:

North and south, Californians use about the same amount of water indoors, the study found. But Southern Californians use far more outdoors to keep their landscaping lush and swimming pools full. Overall, Northern California households use about 295 gallons per day, while Southern Californians use 523 gallons, according to the study.

The drought, however, is indiscriminate to region. The USDA's Drought Monitor maps conditions regularly, and the latest data shows that the vast manority of the state is affected by "Exceptional Drought" (in dark red), the agency's highest level:

This article is part of FrameShift, the blog from the NBC Bay Bay Area Investigative Team. FrameShift writes on investigative and data-driven news from NBC Bay Area and beyond.



Photo Credit: Tavos Mata Machado / Flickr
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<![CDATA[Father Of Cancer Patient Repays Act Of Kindness In Beautiful Way]]> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:47:05 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kaiser+santa+clara+mural+4.jpg

To this day, Darren Greenwood doesn't know who was responsible for the care package, but it couldn't have come at a better time.

It was 2011 and Darren's son, Joe, was about to be diagnosed with leukemia.

Joe, 17 at the time, had begun feeling ill during a family vacation and had gone to see his doctor upon their return. After looking at the results of his blood tests, the doctor told Joe and his parents they needed to go directly from their home in Ripon, outside of Modesto, to the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center.

They arrived late that evening. They were tired. They were hungry.

That's when they got the care package.

"Somebody at some time had made some kind of donation to the hospital," Darren says, "so that new leukemia patients and their families would get one." Darren says, in retrospect, it wasn't important what was in the package, just that it was there.

"It was just the coolest thing," Darren says, holding back tears, "that somebody somewhere was thinking about you."

WATCH MORE BAY AREA PROUD STORIES

He immediately began to think about what he could do that would similarly help others.

"I can paint. So I figured that's what I can do."

And do quite well, it turns out.

While not a professional painter, Darren has quite a bit of experience painting murals. He is responsible for painting the massive murals, featuring underwater scenes with whales and dolphins, covering three buildings at Livermore's Water Reclamation Plant where Darren works as the Assistant Director of Public Works.

It was from that job, late last year, that Darren took three weeks off to deliver on his promise to do something nice for other families at the hospital. He also wanted to say thank you to the doctors and nurses who had cared for Joe, who was now nearing the end of his cancer treatments.

Darren spent 18 hours a day over those three weeks creating a 20-foot mural covering one entire wall, and the ceiling, of the family waiting area of the hospital's pediatric wing. The underwater scene, this one filled with tropical fish and coral formations, is meant to provide a pleasant distraction for families, particularly those with little children, dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

"If there was some way to take someone's mind off of that," Darren says, "that's worth a lot."


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<![CDATA[Some iTunes Users Tell Apple To Back Off]]> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 19:12:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/AppleU2.jpg

When U2 took the stage at Apple's latest event Tuesday, the crowd cheered.

When Tim Cook and Bono announced that half a billion iTunes users would get the new U2 album for free, the crowd cheered, along with most iTunes users.

But some ... not so much.

"Why has a U2 album turned up on my phone, and how the frick do I get rid of it?!" wrote one poster on Twitter.

"honestly putting this U2 album on my phone without my permission is like force feeding lamb to a vegetarian im pretty angry" wrote another.

Turns out, not everyone wanted the new U2 album in their collection, but there it was. 

Privacy violation? Well, some are steamed, but there's a solution for that. Take your iTunes settings off "Automatic Download." That way, you decide if the free album makes it onto your phone and laptop.

In this era of streaming, it's easy to get what we want right now. But if there's something you don't want, you can keep it out. 

Not so much a privacy issue, but a convenience one.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Powers Up with High Technology]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 06:59:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_levis_stadium_sanfrancisco.jpg

Levi's Stadium is built for football, but it also knows something about its fans: They come to the stadium with gadgets galore.

As befitting a Silicon Valley stadium (which could also pass for a tech company campus), Levi's is packed with technology. Starting with 400 miles of cable running through the stadium, 70 miles of that for WiFi alone, Levi's is built with mobile devices in mind.

For example, the stadium comes with its own mobile app, available for Android and iPhones. If you download it, you can check highlights during the game, get tickets and parking passes, and order food from your seat. After testing it out, I can confirm - it works well, but even with one WiFi node for every 100 seats in the stadium, 70,000 people is a lot. Download the app before you get to the game. [274023671, R, 350, 197]]

Down below the field, a server-packed nerve center, looking like a very small Facebook. This is for security and connectivity, running cables straight into the stadium's broadcast center, which powers, among other things, the giant monitors above the crowd. This will dwarf even the biggest TV you have at home, and the Niners know: "Why not deliver content to the people sitting in the stands that's even better than what they get at home?" says 49er COO Al Guido. "Why shouldn't you compete with the at home broadcast?"

It's a philosophy the stadium seems to take to heart. They know you probably have a lot of technology at home. If they can get you into the stadium, they'll make sure you can use plenty of that tech on gameday as well.

Scott kicks off on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[LA Mayor Reveals Min. Wage Hike]]> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 03:47:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/garcetti+immigration+web.PNG

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a proposal to raise the city's minimum wage to $13.25 an hour and "restore dignity for all Angelenos" when he attended a Labor Day rally Monday in South Los Angeles.

Garcetti has been shopping a plan to business groups to raise the  minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. The wage would go up by $1.25 the first year,  and $1.50 each of the following two years, after which it would be pegged to  the cost of living.

The minimum hourly wage in California is $9 and set to go up to $10 in  2016.

Los Angeles would be joining cities like New York, Chicago, San  Francisco and Oakland where minimum wage increases are being considered,  according to the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for  minimum wage increases. Seattle recently approved a measure to increase the minimum hourly wage  to $15 by 2017, while San Diego approved a wage that would rise to $11.50 an  hour by 2017.

The $13.25 per hour minimum wage that is expected to be pushed by  Garcetti would be among the highest in the nation, the group said.

The anticipated $13.25 proposal would still be less than the $15 minimum  hourly wage that is on the November ballot in San Francisco. The business and  labor community there agreed to put the issue to the voters, the group said.

Los Angeles business leaders voiced concern last week over the plan, but two major business groups have not taken official stances on the issue. Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce  Association, said the group's board members will listen to Garcetti's proposal before taking a position.

Waldman said last week the proposal would hurt some businesses and could  result in job loss.

Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce,  said the feedback from members has "largely been one of concern about what  impact this will have on small businesses and nonprofits." Toebben said earlier that the recently instituted statewide hike of the  minimum wage to $9 and ultimately to $10 "will have less of an impact" than a  hike for an individual city.

The mayor's office would not confirm the specifics of the proposal, but  mayoral aide Jeff Millman issued a statement saying officials have been meeting  with business leaders, as well as "labor, community and faith leaders" to  talk about "ways to help L.A. families and our economy thrive."

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<![CDATA[Gift Me: College-Bound Turn to Registries ]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-78779505.jpg

Teens across the country are now applying a tradition once reserved for brides-to-be and expectant mothers to another life milestone: going away to college.

Faced with rising costs and more options for dorm decor, thousands of students a year are creating online registries asking family and friends to help complete their shopping lists. 

Triniti Henry hadn't even decided which college she would attend when she started thinking about all the things she'd need in her freshman year. As she weighed her choices, the 18-year-old compiled a list on her phone of must-haves for transitioning from home to dorm life.

"After I was finished I just looked over and I kept scrolling through everything," the Oak Park, Illinois,  resident said. "I was surprised at how long it was, how much stuff I need."

So she logged on to MyRegistry.com, where she filled a graduation gift wish list with everything from hangers to iPhone speakers. She sent the link to family as part of an invitation to a graduation party.

The teen's mother said the registry was helpful both for organizing their shopping list and giving family the opportunity to pitch in as she prepares to send her only child to college. 

"She received scholarships and everything, thank God for that, but with everything else, we just needed that help so we were like, yes we need to do a party and invite people and have them help," Tabitha Henry said. 

The Henrys aren't alone in feeling the purchasing pinch of going to college. Average spending on furniture, supplies and electronics is expected to hit more than $900 per family this year, an increase of 10 percent from 2013, according to the National Retail Federation's  annual "Back-to-College Survey." Businesses, meanwhile, see an opportunity to cash in on what the retailers'group expects to be a $48.4 billion back-to-college spending season.

"They need so many things and when they make a list it’s good for everybody," said Nancy Lee, president of MyRegistry.com. "It’s good for the retailers because the things get purchased, but they’re not getting hit with returns. ... It’s good for the student because they were able to specify what they wanted."

Lee, whose site allows users to register for a wedding, a baby, or create a general registry for an occasion of their choosing, has seen an uptick in registry use by the college-bound. Two years ago, the idea of creating a graduation or school supply page wasn't even on the radar of top executives. Now, she estimates thousands of registries are created for that purpose each year.

Target launched its own college registry in June. The site attracted thousands of users in the first month live, spokeswoman Jenna Reck said. Reck attributes the interest in part to the young shopper's desire to incorporate more personal style into their purchases.

"On the college side, we’re definitely seeing a trend toward personalization, people not wanting a boring white comforter," she said. "They want a dorm room that reflects their personality."

The chance to customize her dorm style -- and hopefully the graduation gifts she'd receive -- drove Christine Campbell to give Target's registry a try. The decorating and interior design fan, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Harleysville, filled her site with extra-long sheets, decorative cork-board letters and throw pillows adorned with giraffes, flowers and foxes.

She figured creating a college-specific wish list for things she'd need in her first year at Liberty University increased her chances of getting gifts she actually wanted, instead of cash, which she would likely save. Plus, using Target's service, she said, was "not as awkward as sending out a wedding one when I’m not getting married."

As someone who came to age in a time of online shopping, Facebook and Pinterest, sharing the link with family and friends felt natural.

"We’ve been sharing our whole lives so why not just share something we want instead of you trying to guess what we want," she said.

While that view may be common among young consumers, use of registries for college is still a new, and relatively rare, concept. Some caution that asking family and friends to foot the bill for decorations to spruce up the traditionally spartan dorm experience could be seen as extravagant or entitled, especially among older generations. 

"If you go into a registry and create this category, you might come across as being selfish and a bit arrogant to ask for it," said Lars Perner, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.

Those feelings may deter people from being the first among a group of friends or family to give the idea a try, he said. But changes in etiquette, and the popularity and ease of online shopping, could lead use to become more common and accepted. 

"Norms change over generations certainly and certainly this generation is much more brazen than previous generations," he said. "So maybe this is the new norm."

The registry tradition itself is fairly new in the U.S. In 1935, Macy's launched what it says was the country's first registry experience, a "Brides House" on the eighth floor of its Chicago store. The section was fully furnished and staffed with "advisor to the bride," intended to "give the bride suggestions on her new home from kitchen to bedroom," Macy's says.

The concept spread, with more stores, and later websites, offering services tailored to both for weddings and other less traditional occasions, like getting a dog or finalizing a divorce.

"It's gotten almost whimsical," said Barbara Kahn, director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. "But this notion of back to school and this milestone of going to college is back in keeping with the original premise."

Like starting a new home with a spouse or welcoming a first child, leaving for college has "become an orchestrated shopping experience triggered on this change of life event," Kahn said. Unlike other similar turning points, such as a major move, starting college creates both a purchasing need and a sense of sentimentality.

"My prediction is this will catch on because this one does make sense," Kahn said. "You really want to wish the kids a good start. It's a life-changing event and there's just so much of an emotional thing."

Lee, the MyRegistry.com executive, believes the ease of sharing and buying items online, as well as shifts in gift-giving etiquette, have also paved the way for the trend.

"If somebody wants to get a gift back in the olden days we would smile politely and either return it, regift it or stick it in the closet," she said. "I think people are starting to be more practical."

On an even more practical level, the rising expense of school is driving use. That was the case for Triana Rivera. Even with scholarships and GI Bill funds helping cover the Georgia teen's tuition costs at Mercer University, the tab for staples like a comforter and a water pitcher for her dorm fridge added up.

"That really sent me in the real world, that not everything my parents can buy," she said of seeing her shopping list.

So she created a registry online, filled with basic supplies and a few frills, and and sent it to family who live as far as Colorado and Spain. It wasn't long before her desired items started to arrive, allowing the aspiring chemistry and psychology double major to focus on her dream of becoming a doctor instead of paying for the things she needs.

"Actually getting that package at the door," she said. "It made me really relieved that I could rely on a website to get what I wanted." 



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Fuse
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<![CDATA[Starting Freshman Year: Tips for the Transition]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/College-student-generic-bac.jpg

The anticipation of starting life as a college freshman can leave even the most confident student with unanswered questions before move-in day. Here are freshman year survival tips shared by NBC viewers on Facebook and other experts.

Before You Go...

Mary Jo Mason, director of counseling services at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, said that in the coming weeks before college parents can help provide a smooth transition for their students by giving them more responsibilities.  

"I recommend that they allow their student to start making their own appointments for anything, doesn’t matter whether it’s a haircut or a doctor," Mason said. "What this will do for you is help you learn to advocate for yourself."
This "transferable skill" can play a role if a student needs to ask a professor for help in class.  

Get Enough Sleep — Dust Off That Alarm Clock

"If there was only a small bit of advice I could give to students it would be get enough sleep, eat correctly and get some kind of exercise," Mason said.

At-home routines may fall to the wayside, so Mason encourages students to use their phones to stay organized. But use a real alarm clock to wake up for morning classes, she said.

"I know all kids these days use phones as an alarm, but you can turn that off in a heartbeat and never even act like you heard it," she said. 

And for those freshmen prone to pressing snooze, "don't sign up for those 8 a.m. classes" said NBC Bay Area viewer Todd Legate, a graduate of California State University, East Bay. "You're kidding yourself if you think you're going to go."

Time Management is Key

Mason says to use any free time constructively by planning assignments or attending group meetings. Students who can't manage their time may have a harder time adjusting.

"Students who are not very good at managing their time struggle because [they think] 'Oh I’ve got plenty of time to do this,'" and could eventually fall behind or procrastinate with school work.

Organizing and planning for assignments will ease the academic transition. But NBC Bay Area viewer Mollie Pedigo says if a student is struggling in class, "don't be afraid to ask for help."

"Take advantage of your professors' office hours," said the graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. "They set aside those hours specifically to be there to help their students."

Get Involved, Have an Open Mind

Allison McComb, director of the First Year Experience at the University of California Los Angeles, said that students not only make new friends by joining clubs, but find a sense of community while acclimating to college life.

"Finding a place where they feel really comfortable is incredibly important to their overall success," McComb said. "It is well known that students that connect have a better sense of themselves and a feeling of community."

NBC Bay Area viewer Noelle Richard Mayor, a graduate of Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, advises students to join as many clubs as possible, even if that means stepping out of a comfort zone.

"It's a great way to meet friends and feel more at home," she said "Clubs like the Hawaiian club, which I joined even though I'm not from Hawaii, allowed me to experience some fun parties and events."

McComb encourages students to be open-minded to the different types of personalities and backgrounds they encounter. No matter how different people think they are, "there is a base level of understanding that everyone's going through an experience, and just trying to figure it out," she explained.

Before leaving home, a student's nerves and first-year jitters may seem to define their personality. Not so by the end of the second semester.

"I think they come in and they still kind of look and sound “high school,” but by the end of the year they’re talking like old pros. They realize how to navigate," she said. 

Here are more tips from college graduates around the country: 

Telissa Kidwell, University of California, Santa Cruz: "Study abroad for a semester, and take advantage of internships that give college credits!"

Monika Regete Hege, Mission College: "Talk with a school counselor every semester to ensure you are on track. Cultivate the relationship. They should be your advocate if a problem"

Andria Jimenez, Jose City College: "Avoid fast food!! No matter how stressed you are or how cheap it is."

Alison Crowley Short, Dean College, "Meet and hangout with people from outside the town you come from. Some may be friends for life."

Sara Sanger, Sonoma State University, "Don't get those easy credit cards they offer students!"

Amanda Aldama, San Jose State University: "Familiarize yourself with the campus resources (I.e. Career center, counseling, print shop, cultural center, computer labs, writing center, etc.) as soon as possible. Sign up for their e-newsletters if they have them."

Tiffany Orozco Vierra, San Jose State University: "I highly recommend taking a careers/counseling class your first year. Especially if you are not sure of a major."

Mellissia Franklin DeFilippis, University of Phoenix: "Stay focused on the reason you're there."

Dawna Houston, University of Maine: "Be prepared to pay for laundry! Learn how to do laundry before you head to college!"  

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<![CDATA[Back to School Tech: Hot Electronic Gear for Students]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/thumb-tech.jpg

From smart watches to tablet convertibles and a Kindle to download your textbooks, here's what you should know about back to school gear now on the market.

For students going off to college, a laptop computer is a necessity, according to Jordan Crook, a reporter at TechCrunch.

"The best possible computer for a student would be a MacBook Air," Crook said. "It's just the most portable, light-weight thing you can carry around and it's powerful."

However, the latest gear hitting stores this season is an alternative to the everyday laptop — a tablet convertible.

"They call them convertible because they can either be a laptop or a tablet," said Sy Paulson, the general manager of a Manhattan Best Buy.

Tablet convertibles flip to let you "type as comfortably as you would on a traditional laptop."

Paulson recommends the Microsoft Surface, "because it is one of the most powerful and lightweight, and the battery lasts for a very long time."

When it comes to reading for either long-term or nightly assignments, Crook says you can't go wrong with a Kindle Paperwhite.

"It's a great thing for a student to get if you're going be doing a lot of reading. A lot of textbooks can download onto that,"she said. "It'll keep [them] all in one place."

The Kindle Paperwhite is the newest of the Kindle devices and is designed just for reading. The Kindle Fire also allows for using apps and watching TV shows.

For the tech-savvy student who might want to receive social media notifications without pulling out a smartphone in class, Crook recommends the Pebble Steel Smart Watch. The originator of the smart watch trend, Pebble's newest model, the Pebble Steel, beats out competitors with its iOs and Android compatibility, according to Crook.

Another tech-accessory-turned-fashion-statement is a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

"If you want a home run back to school purchase idea for any student, you're going to go a long way if you pick up a pair of Beats or Bose noise canceling headphones," Paulson said.

But if a student wants their music to fill the room, Paulson recommends portable audio speakers that are battery powered and play through any device with a bluetooth interface.

Good speakers for a student on a study break could include GV Pulse speakers. "As you play it, it lights up, and if you turn the lights off in your dorm room you can make it look like a night club," Paulson explained.

Bluetooth has also allowed printers to go wireless. "You can stick the printer under the bed or in the closet on top of the mini fridge and print from your tablet or your phone or your computer," he said.


 

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<![CDATA[Smart Snacks in Schools: What's In & What's Out]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/172220032.jpg

So long doughnuts, chips, and soda in school vending machines. Snacks in schools will look a lot different when kids head back to classrooms this year.

Under the new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards, which took effect nationwide in July 2014, most foods sold in schools will have limited fat, calories, sugar and sodium.

It’s all part of the government’s effort to improve students’ eating habits and to make sure they don’t avoid nutritionally-balanced federal school meals by eating snacks sold in vending machines and snack bars.

"It's pretty common for kids to buy a few cookies and ice tea instead of getting an actual lunch," said James Walsh, 16, a junior at Linden High School in Linden, New Jersey. "It's a smart decision to try to regulate what's sold in vending machines, but kids can still get junk food at the corner store or bring it with them to school."

Snack foods sold in schools will have to be less than 200 calories, have less than 35 percent saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat and contain some sort of nutritional value instead of just empty calories, according to the guidelines.

They also have to be a “whole grain-rich” grain product or have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food.

The new rules will help parents and schools raise healthy kids, Tom Vilsack, the former agriculture secretary, said last year in announcing the program.

Schools had a year to begin offering healthier standards for snacks, but many started offering more nutritious options earlier.

Thousands of schools had started offering better lunches and snacks as part of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) and Healthy Schools Program of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, according to The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, were among them.

"It doesn't make sense to focus on healthy breakfast and lunches if you're going to give students junk food," Julia Bauscher, director of school and community nutrition services at Jefferson County Public Schools said in 2013.

"What we've seen is that when junk food isn’t available, students have healthy breakfast instead," Bauscher added. "Most of us buy things that are in front of, so if we improve the variety of things in front of us it's easier to make healthier choices."

The new standards, introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in June 2013, are meant to help tackle childhood obesity in the United States, which affects about 17 percent of children and adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A separate set of rules already applies to lunch meals.

The new snack rules are required under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed by Congress in 2010 with broad bipartisan support. The food industry and nutrition advocates worked very closely on drafting the snacks measure, which is the first nutritional overhaul of school snacks in 30 years.

Michelle Obama, who’s made it her mission to curb childhood obesity, had applauded the law.

"I am so excited that schools will now be offering healthier choices to students and reinforcing the work we do at home to help our kids stay healthy," the first lady said in a statement.

The increasingly restrictive standards have prompted some school systems to opt out of the National School Lunch Program, which means they don't have to implement the new snack program, the Chicago Tribune reported.

But many parents say the new standards are not strict enough. The new rules cover snacks sold only during regular school hours, so kids can still get junk food at sports game concessions and school clubs can still sell candy after or outside of school.

Karen Devitt, co-founder of Real Foods for Kids, a grass-roots, parent advocacy group promoting healthy foods in the Montgomery Country public schools, Maryland, said the guidelines are a step in the right direction but don’t go far enough.

The USDA guidelines permit artificially flavored milk in elementary and middle schools and caffeinated beverages in high schools. Parents like Devitt are against it. They are also concerned about artificial dyes and preservatives allowed in school foods, according to the The Washington Post.

Michele Simon, a consultant with the Center for Food Safety, said that permitting diet soda in schools was "an abomination."

"They are still focused on nutrients and grams of fat, and not grams of sugar," Simon said, according to msn news, explaining that under the new rules, flavored milk has a size limit but no sugar limit.

But upon seeing the more nutritional vending machine options, students took to social media to vent their none-too-pleased reactions, sharing photos of the chocolate candies and packaged cinnamon rolls they'll be missing.

 

Still, many parents appreciate the new rules. Mark Klabonski, 40, a father of two boys, 7 and 9 years old, said his house isn't free of junk food and the kids are allowed to have a few chips or a candy bar once in a while, so he appreciates schools trying to do their part as well.

"I really don't see a negative here," Klabonski, a data integration analyst from Metuchen, New Jersey, said of the new rules. "I'd imagine when they get older and have some money in their pocket they will want to buy snacks at school, so it's better to have healthier options available."

Take a look at examples of what type of snacks are out and what snacks are in:

Before the New Standards:

  • Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (5 medium)- 286 Total Calories; 182 Empty Calories
  • Fruit Flavored Candies( 2.2 oz. pkg.)- 249 Total Calories; 177 Empty Calories
  • Doughnut(1 large)- 241Total Calories; 147 Empty Calories
  • Chocolate Bar (1 bar-1.6 oz.)- 235 Total Calories; 112 Empty Calories
  • Regular Cola (12 fl. oz.)- 136 Total Calories; 126 Empty Calories

After the New Standards:

  • Peanuts (1 oz.)- 170 Total Calories, 0 Empty Calories
  • Light Popcorn (snack bag)- 161 Total Calories, 17 Empty Calories
  • Low-Fat Tortilla Chips (1 oz.)- 118 Total Calories, 0 Empty Calories
  • Granola Bars with oats, fruit, nuts (1 bar- 8 oz.)- 95 Total Calories, 32 Empty Calories
  • Fruit Cup with 100% juice (Snack cup 4 oz.)- 68 Total Calories, 0 Empty Calories
  • Non-Calorie Flavored Water- (12fl. oz.)- 0 Total Calories, 0 Empty Calories



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Back to School Tech Gear: 10 Hot Gadgets for Students]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/thumb-tech.jpg From tablet convertibles to smart watches and battery charging phone cases, here's a list of top back to school electronics for the season. ]]> <![CDATA[School Lunches Around the World]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:54:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/LunchPakistan2.jpg Photographers captured the lunch fare for students in several countries earlier this month, showing a range of foods, customs, and nutritional standards.

Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[New Bulletproof Blankets Offer Safety in Schools]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bulletproof-bodyguard-blankets.jpg

An Oklahoma inventor's podiatrist appointment sparked an idea and yielded an unexpected result: a bulletproof pad, released this month, to protect school children from shootings and tornadoes.

The Bodyguard Blanket is a bullet- and tornado-resistant blanket made of 5/16-inch thick ballistic fabric, with backpack-like straps that students and teachers can put on during a disaster.

"To say demand has been overwhelming would be the grossest understatement of my life," says Stan Schone, one of the blanket's inventors. His company took 1,000 orders the first day it offered them for sale, and they have sold briskly since, he says.

His podiatrist Steve Walker had first been inspired to create a protective blanket for children last year, shaken by the deadly Moore tornadoes and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Walker shared his prototype with Schone, who then teamed with Oklahoma State University professor Jay Hanan to develop the Bodyguard Blanket.

The Bodyguard Blanket has passed 3A armor testing, the same testing used for police officers' bulletproof vests. According to its maker, it can resist bullets of 90 percent of the types of guns used in past school shootings, like 9mm pistols, .357 magnums, 12-gauge shotguns and 22mm pistols.

The blankets are pricy — just under $1,000 each — but Schone says his aim is to partner with local companies, donors and other investors to provide the blankets for school districts, so schools themselves wouldn't have to pay for the protection.

He also points out that the dyneema blankets are much less costly than comparable bulletproof vests, which he says can cost more than $3,500.

ProTecht is not the only armor manufacturer to shift its focus to civilian needs, and its bulletproof blankets are just the latest in a growing range of protective school equipment, following a tragic spate of school shootings — from Newtown, Connecticut, to the shooting sprees at Seattle Pacific University and near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Maryland's Hardwire makes bullet-resistant whiteboards and door protectors and has sold a local county dozens of bulletproof clipboards and shields to provide security for officials and government workers.

Other companies, like Bullet Blocker, manufacture a range of bulletproof book bags, backpack inserts and briefcases.

But some security experts have cautioned that such safety supplies may be distracting from the need for schools to implement stronger safety procedures and may not be practical.

"There's feeling safer, and then there's actually being safer," school safety consultant Ken Trump told NBC last year. "Schools have limited resources, and they ought to use that money very wisely, put it into an additional school psychologist or a school police officer, train your staff and work with first responders. The most valuable school security tools are invisible."

Still, Schone feels his company's blankets, which cover the body almost completely, could help students stay safe. He says his company keeps prices close to cost and wants to work with non-profits to make Bodyguard Blankets part of their lockdown protocol.

"We didn't do this for the money. Making money was secondary. Protecting the kids was primary," he says.



Photo Credit: Courtesy of ProTecht]]>
<![CDATA[Controversial Sex Ed Book Explaining "Sexual Bondage" Put on Hold]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0813-2014-SexEd.jpg

Faced with a growing backlash from hundreds of parents up in arms over a sex education book they say is too explicit, a Northern California school board has agreed to hold off on allowing the students to read passages some parents say exposes them to "sexual games, sexual fantasies and sexual bondage."

At a Fremont Unified School District board meeting Wednesday, trustees voted 3-2 to work with Publisher McGraw-Hill to revise the controversial book, "Your Health Today," that was slated to be 9th grade reading material this coming school year.

District employees must report on those change to the board in January. Meanwhile, Fremont students will use the district's old health book instead, which is ten years old.

More than 2,000 parents signed an online petition describing their gripes with the book, noting that the material was not "age appropriate," as its pages apparently discuss "sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices."

NBC Bay Area has not reviewed the book in question.

But Slate reports that some of the sexual topics are described "in the most boring prose imaginable."  To explain sexual bondage, for example, the next passage reads: "Most sex games are safe and harmless, but partners need to openly discuss and agree beforehand on what they are comfortable doing." Students are also cautioned to only do "what they are comfortable doing."

The book touts itself as being "truly inclusive and socially responsible." Its authors are doctors and PhDs from UC Davis, SUNY Buffalo and the University of Northern Colorado.

Other chapters include information on nutrition, fitness, stress and body weight. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the book is being used in a handful of Texas districts, but none in California.

Parents came out at the board meeting to make sure their voices were heard, loud and clear.

"I don't trust you as board members, I don't. I do not trust you with my child," Parent Jim Schultz told the board. "I'm sorry, I cannot see anything that a child needs to know in ninth grade about bondage. What are you teaching them?"

In an interview earlier this month, School Supt. Jim Morris said the teachers reviewed several books and chose "Your Health Today" out of several choices. “The teachers really said ‘what’s the best up-to-date material,’ and this was their recommendation – and I supported that recommendation,” he said.

But not everyone agrees the book should be removed from the lesson plan - it was a decision trustees first made in June. Some parents support their children opening up their eyes to what's going on around them.

"If you listen to popular music, if you read popular books, if you see popular movies -- none of the content in the book contains anything our kids haven't already been exposed to," parent Dianne Jones said.

NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Must See: Emmy Contenders with 10 Nominations or More]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Orange-Is-The-New-Black-Episode-3.jpg The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented 25 August at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Seth Meyers and airing live on NBC.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Highway Mom: "There Was No Stopping This One"]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:06:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Baby-Delivered-Highway-0703.jpg

As a mother of three boys, it's probably difficult to surprise Katie Ashcraft .

Tell that to her fourth son who arrived earlier than anticipated and surprised his parents alongside a San Diego highway Thursday.

Ashcraft and her husband were on their way to UCSD Medical, driving on Interstate 15 near State Route 56 when they realized the baby not due for another 10 days just wasn't going to wait a minute longer.

"Something was different," she explains. "It was really intense."

"There was no stopping this one."

After Ashcraft's water broke, it was a matter of minutes before the baby was crowning and her husband was worried.

"It was complete chaos for about 20 minutes," she said.

The couple pulled over and called 911. Within minutes the California Highway Patrol and San Diego Fire Rescue crews arrived and helped her deliver the baby.

NBC 7 captured the new mom as she was transported to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital after the 2 a.m. delivery in the back of the couple's pickup truck.

Baby boy Ashcraft weighed in at a healthy 10 pounds, 14 ounces.

His mother described this delivery as night and day when compared to her previous deliveries. With each of her three older sons, she had the time to receive an epidural.

“It was a lot of screaming,” she said. “I’ve never felt pain like that before.”

"I don't know how I survived," she said.

She appeared calm when she invited NBC 7 to speak with her in her hospital room despite the chaos of the morning.

Able to laugh about it later, she said the only good thing about the birth was that it was fast.

She was also grateful everything worked out well since she lives with Type I Diabetes and is usually monitored closely when pregnant.

"This was a complete 360. I never would have imagined," she said.

The baby was a little bruised up because he was delivered so quickly, his mother said, but he's healthy and doing well in the care of the doctors at the hospital.

Ashcraft said she hopes to do something to thank the emergency personnel who helped her safely deliver. The people she called her heroes.



Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[San Rafael Coffee Company's Effort To Help Soldiers Yields Unexpected, Romantic Result]]> Fri, 13 Jun 2014 09:06:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/cup+of+joe+2.jpg

When Whitney Popp and Steven MarcAurele are asked how they first met, the soon-to-be-married couple have two ways they can go with the story.

If they opt for the short version, Whitney and Steven can simply say "over a cup of coffee." The longer version, however, is much, much better. 

That's because it wasn't just any cup of coffee.

Two years ago, as part of the San Rafael-based Green Bean Coffee's "Cup of Joe For a Joe" program Whitney bought Steven that cup of coffee from more than 7,000 miles away.

 

Whitney Popp and Steven MarcAurele met when Whitney sent Steven, an Air Force staff sergeant serving in Afghanistan, a cup of coffee through Green Beans Coffee's Cup of Joe program.

"I had signed up for the program the day before," Steven says, "and the first cup of coffee I got was from (Whitney)."

Steven, an Air Force staff sergeant serving in Afghanistan, responded with a thank you email. Whitney, a former Peace Corps volunteer from Chico, wrote back. A year later the two were engaged. "I had found this amazing woman," Steven says. "I thought he was cute," Whitney shoots back.

 

Green Beans started with a single cafe in Saudi Arabia. Their core business is now operating gourmet coffee cafe's on military bases around the world.

No one, it appears, was happier to hear the wedding news than Jason Araghi, the man responsible for the cup of coffee. "I was jumping up and down," Jason says. "How amazing is that?"

WATCH MORE BAY AREA PROUD STORIES

Jason, and his brother Jon, originally from Los Gatos, started Green Beans Coffee close to 20 years ago with a single cafe in Saudi Arabia.

 

Jason Araghi and his brother Jon, originally from Los Gatos founded Green Beans close to 20 years ago.

American ex-pats and military personnel became regular customers of theirs. Eventually, the US military asked the brothers if they would like to open a coffee shop on an air base in the country.

It turned out to be a good fit and not long after Green Beans began expanding to bases across the Middle East including, after 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I had employees who had to go to work wearing helmets and Kevlar vests," Jason says.

It was in 2009 that, hoping to give something back to the troops who had given them so much business, Jason and Jon started the Cup of Joe program. Anyone, for just $2, could send a random service member overseas a free cup of coffee.

The Cup of Joe For a Joe program allows anyone to send a free cup of coffee to a random service member overseas for just $2

"We wanted to create a bridge from the people in the US, to those serving overseas," Jason says.

They had little idea how successful they would be. Over the five years it has been in place, more than one million cups of coffee have been donated. The value to the soldiers is spelled out in the letters and notes they send back to their benefactors.

Notes, that have sparked more than a few pen pal relationships, friendships, and now, a wedding.

 

While Green Beans has no retail outlets in the Bay Area, its headquarters are in San Rafael and its coffee roasting facility is in Petaluma.

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<![CDATA[Worker Didn't Get Video of Girls Undressing, Police Say]]> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 08:18:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/paul-michael-barbour-booking-photo.jpg

The owners of an Orange County dance studio where an employee allegedly set up a hidden camera in a dressing room to film young girls told NBC4 Wednesday that the man’s actions were "so evil."

Paul Barbour, 33, was an emcee for Kids Artistic Revue in Cypress. According to Cypress Police, Barbour hid a video camera inside a changing room at Cypress College to record girls between the ages of 12 and 15 who were performing at a dance competition Saturday. In the video taken at the event, Barbour could be seen adjusting the camera, prosecutors said. The next day, investigators raided Barbour’s home and found more than 1,000 images of child pornography on his home computer.

"It’s very sad how someone can hide something that’s just so evil," Kids Artistic Revue CEO Noah Lands said.

The company says they are immediately changing protocol, including stricter monitoring of who is allowed in dressing rooms and where cameras are permitted.

"We are not going to push it under the rug because this is something we all need to learn about," Lands said.

Police believe Barbour did not get any video of the dancers. A dance instructor told NBC4 that when the video was reviewed after the hidden camera was discovered, it showed that the camera was knocked over right after it was set up.

"There was luckily and thankfully no footage of any dancers dressing or undressing," dance instructor Donna Shepherd said.

"Had it not fallen maybe something would have gotten on tape. I think things happen for a reason so I'm glad that that happened," parent Kristi Alanes said.

Dancers are looking forward to moving on from this incident.

"We love (dancing) so why stop this because of this one person," dancer Kiana Mariano said. "And he got arrested."

Kids Artistic Revue plans to meet with other dance competition companies to discuss how to improve security in the future.

Representatives from the company say they did run background checks on Barbour, but no red flags appeared. Barbour was also run through the sex offender registry but there was no listing. 

Barbour was charged with possession of child pornography with a sentencing enhancement allegation for possessing more than 600 child pornography images, including more than 10 images of a minor under the age of 12, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said. He also faced other drug-related charges.

If convicted, Barbour faces a maximum sentence of more than seven years behind bars.

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<![CDATA[Boy Hurls "Racial Slurs," Mom Denies Choking]]> Tue, 20 May 2014 11:08:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/olivet1.jpg

A 12-year-old boy made "racial slurs" at a woman's 10-year-old daughter, but the mother "adamantly denies" ever grabbing the fifth grader by the throat, the woman's attorney said Tuesday.

Speaking by phone, criminal defense attorney Ben Adams said that Delia Garcia-Bratcher acted as any mother would after a boy at Olivet Elementary Charter School in Santa Rosa allegedly bullied her daughter last week.

A Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy arrested the 30-year-old mother on Saturday on one felony charge of inflicting injury on a child after alleging Garcia-Bratcher left red marks on the boy's throat when she came onto campus Friday.

Garcia-Bratcher was released from custody after posting $30,000 bail. As of Tuesday, her arraignment is now scheduled for Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

In an interview with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Garcia-Bratcher said the boy called her daughter a "dirty Indian," and that she spoke to him about the name calling on Friday.

Adams did not have firsthand knowledge of the specific insult, but he did tell NBC Bay Area that "racial slurs" were made. He said Garcia-Bratcher is Native American. He also insisted that his client "adamantly denies doing that" in regards to putting hands on the boy's throat, despite pictures of red marks teachers took afterward, according to the sheriff.

Lt. Steve Brown on Monday said that after further investigation there was no direct evidence of bullying between the fifth grade boy and the 10-year-old.

"We are unable to find any nexus between the two students and are unable to determine if any bullying ever occurred between the two," Brown put out in a statement.

Adams did acknowledge, however, that Garcia-Bratcher confronted a boy she felt was bullying one of her six children.

"She's a mom," he said, "and she appears to be a good mom. She told the boy to stop it and leave her daughter alone. Stop being a brat and stop calling her names. It's something anyone would do."
 



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Caught on Cam: San Jose Cars Set on Fire]]> Tue, 20 May 2014 17:40:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fire216.jpg

A San Jose homeowner has surveillance video showing what appears to be a man in a hoodie lighting some liquid and setting a fire under his car window wiper, which he shared with NBC Bay Area on Monday, hoping that the suspect will be caught.

San Jose firefighters confirmed they are investigating two "suspicious fires" set at the man's home on Sand Point Drive about 2 a.m. Tuesday near Eastridge Mall.  Vince Tran said the fire destroyed his 2008 Acura MDX and 2013 Honda Civic.

Tran said he was targeted "a couple times" before. He showed NBC Bay Area footage from a May 11 video, showing two suspects throwing paint on his windshield.

As for why, he answered, "At this point I don't know."

Tran has a family of five children and is feeling very "angry." He is hoping if anyone knows anything, they will come forward to police with information.

San Jose fire investigators say the video could be key in helping them track down the person who started the blaze.

San Jose Fire Captain Shannon Blean said the flames did $10,000 in damage to the house.



Photo Credit: Courtesy of San Jose homeowner]]>
<![CDATA[World's Crookedest Street Will Close to Cars]]> Wed, 21 May 2014 07:34:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/lombard1.jpg

Tourists to San Francisco could see a kink in their vacation plans: The most famous crooked street in the world will be closed to traffic over four weekends this summer.

At its Tuesday meeting, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors listened to Lombard Street residents' complaints about traffic congestion, car accidents, pedestrian injuries and property damage, as looky-loos crane their necks and drive like molasses down the winding street in the Russian Hill neighborhood.

The SFMTA board, at the request of Supervisor Mark Farrell, voted to approve an experimental temporary shutdown of Lombard Street, nicknamed the "Crooked Street," from June 21 to July 13 from noon to 6 p.m. Those dates include the Fourth of July. 

The closing affects the crooked part of eastbound Lombard, between Larkin and Leavenworth streets.

Some neighborhood residents would like to see the road closed for more than just a few weekends a year. A neighborhood spokesman said their goal is for the road to be closed most of the summer and half of all weekends.

Caught riding his motorcycle down Lombard early Tuesday, Tom Wolfe said "it's a tough call."

"For the sake of the people who live here, it's a good idea," Wolfe said. "But for the poor tourists, it's kind of tough."

Still, Wolfe sided more with the tourists, adding that if you chose to buy a home on Lombard Street, you should know that "25 tourists staring you in the face when you pick up the newspaper" is just "part of the package."

Others weighed in on NBC Bay Area's Facebook page. Leisa Jones posted, "if you don't want constant traffic going by your front door, don't live on an internationally known tourist attraction."

But Filipina Viina Canasa wrote that the city shouldn't shut Lombard down because it's the "main place where people go to see and visit."

While the temporary shutdown is a pilot program, the board will also see if it makes sense to make the closures a longer term solution. The board also considered seeking state legislation to allow San Francisco to gate Lombard Street.

Local traffic, taxi cabs and pedestrians will still be allowed.

The issue has been formally debated since 2000, according to the SFMTA report. Other possible solutions have also been proposed including gating the street, creating a pedestrian mall, privatizing the street, prohibiting right turns on Hyde Street, and closing Lombard between Van Ness and Polk Streets during peak traffic periods.

Shutdown dates:

  •  Saturday and Sundays in June: 21, 22, 28, 29
  •  Friday 4th of July
  •  Saturday and Sundays in July: 5, 6, 12, 13



Photo Credit: Christie Smith]]>
<![CDATA[Clipper Card Commuters Question Validity of Citations]]> Fri, 02 May 2014 12:38:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/clipper+machine.jpg

Ellie Cachette fought the law, and the law won, twice, before she successfully appealed her $103 SFMTA ticket for fare evasion. But she’s one of very few to receive a refund. Data provided to NBC Bay Area by the transit agency show that for fiscal year 2013, of the 20 percent of tickets submitted for appeal, just 1 percent were successful.

The number of riders getting caught in the dragnet is on the rise. SFMTA fare inspectors are on pace to write more than 70,000 tickets for fare evasion this fiscal year, a number that eclipses the 27,000 tickets written when the Clipper card was first introduced to Muni in 2010. The agency is also poised to collect $3 million in fines, more than twice what it brought in last year.

Note that fiscal year 2013-2014 is a partial year but is already on track to be the most profitable for citations. Credit: Scott Pham.

Cachette was so incensed after receiving her ticket, she wrote a blog post titled “How to Fight the SFMTA and Win.” [pdf]

“I had a Clipper card and when I went on Muni at Dolores Park. It beeped and said it was low,” said Cachette, an infrequent rider who visits San Francisco for occasional work trips. “So when I went to the Montgomery Street station to add money, an officer pulled me aside and said I was evading fare.”

Cachette said she was confused because the Clipper terms of service state that riders may “complete the trip even if the fare exceeds the card’s remaining value” as long as funds are added before the card is used again.

Last year SFMTA changed their policy, allowing riders with a negative balance of up to $0.75 one more ride before they have to reload their card. But SFMTA acting director of security, investigations and enforcement Chris Grabarkiewctz told us that ride must be completed in a certain time frame.

“It can be confusing for people,” he said. “They are not paying for the ride itself, they’re paying for a 90 minute window to ride our vehicles. If the card is examined by a fare inspector, it will show they’re riding on a valid fare. Conversely, if someone has used up the 90 minutes and needs to transfer and doesn’t have opportunity to load more money, then yes the person is subject to a ticket,” Grabarkiewctz said.

Other riders detailed their Clipper frustrations to the Investigative Unit. Commuter and startup founder Sati Hillyer recorded video of several Clipper reader machines that were broken. He’s convinced they don’t always register payment, even when they are working.

A non-functioning Clipper card reader. Credit: Sati Hillyer.

It’s unclear how many of the tickets were the result of a malfunctioning card reader. SFMTA was not able to provide a breakdown of how many fare evasion tickets were written for people with Clipper card issues.

“Frankly the machines are very user friendly,” said Grabarkiewctz. “The Clipper website has very clear instructions for what constitutes a tag that will deduct the appropriate fare.”

In Cachette’s case, after appealing and losing twice by mail,she took a day off work to appeal her ticket in person. Sheinally got her $103 fine refunded, but it was for a reason she didn’t expect.

“The copy [of the ticket] that was on file was actually plagiarized,” Cachette said. Her ticket didn’t have an officer badge number or street location. “However the ticket that was scanned and put on file with the city was completely filled out correctly.”

Grabarkiewctz said Cachette’s case was an anomaly and that while inspectors often hear that the machines are broken, SFMTA’s data shows that only 3% of machines are down at any given time.

Grabarkiewctz acknowledged that inspectors have a quota or “performance standard” requiring them to write at least five tickets per shift, but he attributes the spike in fare evasion tickets to a hiring spree. SFMTA beefed up itsnumber of inspectors by 45% over the past two years to 54 inspectors, in addition to the police officers who assist with fare evasion operations.

Though fare inspectors have the discretion to write a warning instead of a ticket, they usually save those free passes for tourists or young riders.

And until the inspectors make a dent in the estimated $20-22 million a year in lost revenue from fare evaders, riders should not expect much leeway from law enforcement.

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<![CDATA[What If Moses Had Facebook? Google Exodus on Social Media]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:37:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/aish.jpg

What if Moses had Facebook?

That's the question a Jewish group in Israel began formally asking in 2011. And by Monday - on the eve of Passover - more than 2.5 million people had clicked in to watch a YouTube video trying to answer that question, all with a jazzy version of the Passover classic, "Dayenu," set in the background.

When Aish.com first publicized the "Google Exodus - Passover Movie," just 50,000 people had seen the clever 2:17-minute clip.

Silicon Valley plays a prominent role - albeit silent one - in the humorous video, with Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Twitter and Craigslist all acting as the key forms of communication between God, Moses, Pharaoh and the other key Passover players. Of course, Moses emails Pharaoh from his gmail account to the leader's dot.gov account.

The clip begins with a search for "Basket Baby." Someone searches Yahoo for "Why is the bush burning but not being consumed?" Pharaoh's Palace is searched for on Google Maps. And Moses posts a status update on Facebook saying that "My staff just turned into a snake. Cool."

While the video is still certainly funny, after three years, it's starting to show its age. There are no Red Sea photos posted Instagram. And if Ramses needed a girlfriend for his harem, Tinder wasn't around to have helped him find a nice Eygptian girl.

Maybe that's why this year, Aish.com - a Jerusalem-based Jewish content website - decided to be topical, and create a new Passover video based on the hit Disney film "Frozen."

This year's video is called "Let it Go: Passover Edition." As of Monday morning, it had nearly 80,000 views.



Photo Credit: YouTube screengrab from Aish.com]]>
<![CDATA[FedEx Cited More Than 600 Times for Dangerous Driving]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:44:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/new-bus-crash-edt-cali.jpg

The Investigative Unit has found that drivers for FedEx Freight, a division of FedEx, have been in 730 accidents in the past two years, and have been cited more than 679 times for unsafe driving.

The collision near Orland between a FedEx truck and a bus carrying high school students has the Investigative Unit wondering about the company’s driving history. Records NBC Bay Area obtained from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that out of 679 violations they recorded, nearly half were for speeding. Other violations include “failure to obey traffic control device” (81) and improper lane changes (57). 47 violations were issued for using a cell phone or texting while driving.

Traffic accidents are even more common than traffic violations. Over the past two years, FedEx drivers have been involved in 730 nationally 43 of those incidents happened in California, which include two fatalities prior to Thursday’s accident.

The accident on Thursday was the worst FedEx has experienced since November of 2012 when it was involved in a 100-vehicle pileup in east Texas.

It’s important to keep in mind that FedEx Freight is just one part of the larger FedEx. The company is massive and has more than 20,000 vehicles and 35,000 employees. And as with all companies who employ drivers of truck and buses, their employees undergo drug and alcohol testing.

However, when compared to other freight companies, Fedex Freight racks up violations more frequently and is involved in collisions more often than its peers.

In terms of company size, the tour bus involved in the accident, Silverado Stages, is a much smaller carrier. It’s based in San Luis Obispo and has fewer than 2,000 employees. It’s never been involved in a fatal accident.

NBC Bay Area also took a long look at the road where the accident occurred [map]. The collision happened on a stretch of I-5 roughly 160 miles north of San Francisco near the city of Orland. California Highway Patrol data NBC Bay Area analyzed showed there have been just nine accidents along that stretch of roadway since 2008. However none resulted in severe injuries. The majority of those accidents occurred with a mile of Thursday’s fatal accident.

None of the nine recorded accidents were head-on collisions like the one involving the tour bus on Thursday. The closest head-on collision on I-5 since 2008 was over 10 miles away from the FedEx crash site.

FedEx expressed their “deepest personal sympathies and the condolences of over 300,000 other FedEx team members” in a written statement from CEO Frederick Smith. Smith cautioned that it would take some time to determine exactly how and why the accident occurred, but pledged the company’s willingness to comply with investigators.

Investigators have estimated that it could take anywhere from three to six months to determine a cause.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Leno's "Tonight Show" Best]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:27:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/NUP_161934_1205+%281%29.jpg Leno will pass the "Tonight Show" hosting torch to Fallon when "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" premieres February 17, 2014 on NBC. Lets take a look back at some of Leno's career highlights.

Photo Credit: Stacie McChesney/NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Are Sewers Source of Toxic Hot Spots in Mountain View?]]> Tue, 18 Feb 2014 07:53:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/EPA+SHIRT.png

The toxic chemical TCE has popped up in residential neighborhoods in Mountain View outside the boundary of an EPA Superfund site.

NBC Bay Area looked at maps of city infrastructure to follow the trail of toxic hot spots. The EPA is currently studying whether the sewer and storm drain system are serving as a conduit to transport the chemicals into neighborhoods.

The US Environmental Protection Agency says it wants to find out the source of so called “rogue” hot spots of the chemical TCE which have been measured in residential neighborhoods recently. TCE is known to be in a large plume of toxic chemicals that make up one of two Superfund sites in and around Moffett Air Field in Mountain View.

Last year, NBC Bay Area first reported that the new ‘hot spots’ were discovered outside of the Moffett Air Field Superfund sites. Now, residents and environmentalists are theorizing that the TCE might be escaping the “boundaries” along underground sewer and storm drain lines.

EPA officials confirm that they are studying that theory.

“The EPA is investigating the source of these TCE hot spot areas,” said Alana Lee, the Superfund site project manager. “We’re working with the city of Mt. View and looking at historical information. At this time EPA has not drawn any conclusions.”

Along an idyllic trail in Mountain View, an environmental consulting firm and the EPA discovered concentrations of TCE in Stevens Creek in Mountain View. “They concluded that it came from leaking sewer lines,” said environmental activist Lenny Siegel. Siegel rides the trail regularly and believes that the evidence points to the storm drain and sewer lines themselves as part of the problem.

These are sewer lines that originate from the Superfund plume itself.

At the center of all this is the EPA Superfund project called the MEW, or Middlefield Ellis Whisman site. It’s been around since the 1980s when the EPA first identified several toxic chemicals left in the soil and ground water from the budding semi-conductor industry that was based here.

The most prevalent chemical that lingers in the soil, ground water and the air here is Trichloroethylene or TCE. It’s a toxic cleaning solvent once commonly used by industry and the military. Studies have shown it can cause cancer in people and heart deformities in unborn babies.

This map shows locations where high amounts of TCE has been detected in soil samples, along with storm water drainage routes that connect with the MEW Superfund site.

Six years ago this month, Edgar Garcia developed acute lymphoma when he was three years-old.

“It was a hard battle,” said Angelica Garcia. “We were in the hospital more than at home.”

The Garcia family live just outside the boundary of the toxic plume in Mountain View.

“The first time we heard he had cancer, we didn’t believe it,” said Garcia. “I want to know if where we live has something to do with it.”

Edgar’s cancer is in remission after four years of treatment. But just last year, high concentrations of TCE were measured in a house just across the street from where the Garcia’s live. The Garcia’s told us they contacted the Investigative Unit, “because I wanted to know more answers and it see it would cause his cancer.”

The Garcias are waiting on answers about the origins of Edgar’s cancer, but the Investigative Unit decided to dig further into TCE seems to be spreading.

We obtained a map of Mountain View’s sewer and drain system from the city and aligned it with a map showing concentrations of TCE in neighborhoods outside of MEW. The hot spots easily line up with the sewer system.

It’s enough of a relationship to raise questions about whether the underground network is spreading the contamination.

Further bolstering the theory: this report from an independent environmental study group. The report found high concentrations of TCE along this property outside the Superfund site boundary.

The report points to the storm drains and sewer lines that extend back into the Superfund site as a source of the contamination.

“It’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” cautioned Siegel at the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. “But it’s the best explanation of the data. And it’s the best explanation we have right now is that these horizontal conduits, storm drains or sewer lines are the source.”

In a meeting just last week, EPA Superfund site project manager Alana Lee said her team is still not sure why these hot spots have popped up outside the boundary area.

“We’re certainly investigating the potential of the sewer lines. But again, we’re looking at a lot of information, evaluating that data and at this time, we’re unable to draw any conclusions.”

For the Garcias, their questions are even more basic: “I think I would like to know if my son is actually, his cancer came from that,” said Angelica Garcia. “And why?”

The EPA is still working on a plan to test the sewer line theory by look at air and groundwater samples in and around neighborhoods surrounding the superfund site. They say they hope to have a plan in the coming months.

The EPA stresses that drinking water in this area is not affected.

In the meantime, residents like the Garcia are left with lots of questions but few concrete answers.

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<![CDATA[49ers' New Stadium Goes Solar to Save Energy]]> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 18:01:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/levisolarpanel.jpg

Forty-nine panels.

It's almost too good to be true, but the new 49ers stadium used 49 solar panels (big ones) to reach phase one of "net zero" status. That means, during the regular season home games, the entire stadium will not use a drop of power that doesn't come from the sun.

That stat comes to us from NRG, the company that did the heavy lifting to put the panels on the stadium roof. The panels themselves come from San Jose-based SunPower, which has been on a roll lately, turning out panels and pleasing investors (SPWR) with a high-flying share price.

49ers President Gideon Yu says going solar was one of the main goals for the new stadium; he says energy efficiency is "as important to a Bay Area stadium as technology and good food."

For its part, NRG bought into the tech part of it all, even putting GoPro cameras on the panels as they raised them to the stadium roof.

Look for lots of focus on the energy efficiency out at Levi's Stadium, especially during the Super Bowl.

Along with all the WiFi in the place, the solar power definitely gives the team's new digs a Bay Area/Silicon Valley feel.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: 49ers]]>
<![CDATA[Bitcoin Founder Unmasked. Or Is He?]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 21:06:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/%5BNECN%5DBitcoin.jpg

Today -- mark it on your calendars -- is Satoshi Nakamoto day.

That's the name of the man Newsweek outed as the founder of digital crypto-currency Bitcoin -- and the man currently, as of this writing, leading the news media on a frantic chase around Los Angeles.

That is, when he's not outright denying any connection to Bitcoin.

The name appears to be an alias, but other media have reported that it does indeed belong to a 64-year old Southern California man who loves model trains and lives in a home with his mother, the New York Times reported.

What evidence there is linking Bitcoin's birth to the man named Satoshi -- which for years has been considered to be perhaps an alias or a nom de code for a group of programmers -- is a 2008 document that describes the idea for Bitcoin at length, using Satoshi's name and email address as the author's contact information, Newsweek reported.

But in the ensuing years, whoever or whatever Satoshi is has gone to great lengths to maintain total anonymity.

As of today, he has both denied being involved with Bitcoin and also said that he is no longer involved and cannot talk about it.

Twittersphere: Reaction to Bitcoin Founder Revelation

Is Satoshi Nakamoto the founder of Bitcoin? A Newsweek article claims he might be. See how people are reacting to the news on Twitter:

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<![CDATA[Intelligent Robotics Coming to Your iPhone]]> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 05:12:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/201*120/152466035.jpg

There's something about controlling a racing robot with a smartphone in your hand that makes you forget everything else around you.

Isn't that what games are supposed to do?

With Anki's new "Drive," you pretty much zone everything else out, as you race your car around the track, shooting your competition, which today includes a robotic car, powered by artificial intelligence.

Such is the atmosphere around Anki's new offices overlooking San Francisco. Apple fans already know Anki as the company that stole the show during June's Developer Conference keynote, racing cars around a track before going into stealth mode.

They've emerged, with a game due in Apple stores Oct. 23. It will sell for $199 and comes in a big black box, complete with a track and two cars (others sold separately).

While the game is easy to play, it's a far cry from the Hot Wheels we grew up with, and it merely hints at a future where A.I., and robotics, play a bigger role in what we can do with our iPhones and iPads.

Apple is even holding training days at some of its stores to let people try the Anki game.

It's not cheap, but you get the feeling that it's an investment in the future: robotics, brought to us in the form of a game.

I, for one, welcome our new robotic artificially intelligent overlords.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman (and Instagram -- see below)

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Space: Silicon Valley's Next Frontier]]> Mon, 21 Oct 2013 16:43:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/delta-rocket-vandenberg-1.jpg

The tech industry is famous for looking into the next big thing. These days, that thing may be space.

As in, taking you there someday.

Space travel is hot. So hot, a convention launched Friday in Silicon Valley, bringing startups, venture capitalists, and advisors together to talk about how to bring down the cost of going up.

Richard David runs a group called Newspace Global. They track space-related startups. Not surprisingly, Elon Musks's SpaceX is No. 1, but others are growing, getting funding and looking to hire.

Some companies will get work done on board the International Space Station, others (like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic) will take aspiring astronauts up into space.

"Space is not the final frontier," David said. "It's still expensive to go there, but it's getting cheaper to launch satellites, and it will get cheaper to send us."

With startups funded by the likes of Musk and Jeff Bezos, money is no object, and the technology is moving fast.

Get ready for takeoff.

Scott, on earth, is on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: United Launch Alliance]]>
<![CDATA[Pa. Student Victim Posts Selfie of Himself "Chillin" After Stabbing]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:26:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-09-2014-stabbing-crop.jpg

Pennsylvania high school stabbing victim Nate Scimio posted a selfie of himself from the hospital after a stabbing rampage Wednesday to let everyone know he was doing OK.

"Chillin at Children's," was how Scimio labeled the Instagram photo, which shows him in a hosptal gown, his right arm in a bandage.

At least eight people from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa., were hospitalized during the mass stabbing, many with deep puncture wounds to the abdomen, police said.

Scimio was being hailed as a hero on Twitter Wednesday for reportedly pulling a fire alarm and alerting students during the incident.

Franklin Regional students Trinity McCool and Lindsay Scala tweeted their thanks to Scimio for saving their lives.

"Without Nate me and Lindsay would've been injured and there's not enough words to describe how much of a hero he is," McCool tweeted.

McCool also tweeted about the stabber who created panic in the halls as he attacked people.

"I just cant get the fear and his look on his face out of my head when he chased us down the hall," she wrote.

The 16-year-old stabbing suspect, identified as Alex Hribal, has been charged with 26 felony counts.

"Can't thank Nate enough for stepping in front of me and Trinity today. He is a hero, and I am so thankful. Praying for everyone today," Scala tweeted.



Photo Credit: Instagram via nate_scimio]]>