<![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 Thu, 28 May 2015 15:12:57 -0700 Thu, 28 May 2015 15:12:57 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Savagely Beaten Pit Bull Terrier Mix, Maximilian, Dies]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 18:36:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/186*120/dogkilled.JPG

Maxmilian, the savagely beaten pitbull terrier mix who was found with missing footpads and cigarette burns in San Francisco last week, had to be euthanized Sunday morning after his kidneys failed, Animal Care And Control officers said.

On Monday,  Animal Care And Control San Francisco announced a new $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who abused Max.

"He endured so much abuse that his body was not able to recover despite the vet staff's efforts," Animal Care And Control San Francisco said on its Facebook page. "There was nothing more to be done," volunteer Deb Campbell told NBC Bay Area.

A $10,000 reward was offered by Maddie's Fund for information in the case after the pup was found at 6 a.m. last Thursday under the U.S. Highway 101 overpass near South Van Ness Avenue with severe injuries, including blunt force trauma to his head and body and broken and missing teeth. His paws were severely injured and were missing pads and nails and there were cigarette burn marks on his body.

"Absolutely broke my heart when I saw him this morning, lying on his side, but still managed to wag his tail at me," said a May 15 post on the agency's Facebook page. 

Campbell said the reward offer generated lots of leads. "Because of it our animal control officers were able to find Max's owner — Max had been stolen from him early last week," Campbell said. "Our captain arranged for him to be with Max at the end when he was euthanized, so at least he was able to hear his owner's voice one last time."

"It's been hard on our staff. but they are determined to find who did this to Max, and are pursuing many leads," Campbell said.

Anyone with information that could help the investigation is encouraged to call Animal Care and Control at (415)-554-9400. Callers may remain anonymous.

 

Update on the Maximilian case. We have a new reward flyer with some additional information. We're hoping that perhaps...

Posted by Animal Care & Control San Francisco on Monday, May 18, 2015

We have very sad news to report. Maximilian was euthanized this morning after suffering from kidney failure. He endured...

Posted by Animal Care & Control San Francisco on Sunday, May 17, 2015



Photo Credit: SF Animal Care And Control]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' Miller Pleads Not Guilty to Misdemeanor Vandalism]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 18:34:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0309-2015-BruceMiller.jpg

San Francisco 49ers fullback Bruce Miller pleaded not guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor vandalism charge after a fight with his girlfriend at a bagel shop where he smashed her cell phone.

Miller is free on $10,000 bail and was also ordered by the judge to not contact his girlfriend. The Mercury News reported the couple have since broken off their engagement. Miller's attorney, Josh Bentley, did not speak to reporters after the arraignment or return a phone call from NBC Bay Area.

His next court date is scheduled for May 26.

The plea follows a charge filed Monday by Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Jim Demertzis, who is trying the case in a domestic violence court. Demertzis added that while initial reports surfaced that Miller may have pushed his girlfriend from his parked car, the "alleged assault was inconclusive," as the girlfriend later recounted that there was a physical fight.

The maximum penalty for misdemeanor vandalism if he is convicted is one year in jail, which is standard for this charge.  What makes this a domestic violence case is that the fact that Miller and his girlfriend were in an "intimate relationship," explained Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson.

That means if Miller is convicted of the charge and placed on probation, he will be subject to domestic violence conditions, which include three years of mandatory formal probation, one year of a batterer's treatment program, and a protective order.

Miller had originally been arrested on one count of spousal battery.

"Even relatively minor domestic violence incidents can be the first steps on a path that ends in tragedy," Demertzis said in a statement. "That’s why we take all domestic violence cases seriously.”

San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke issued this statement: “The 49ers organization is aware of today’s developments involving Bruce Miller and will continue to monitor these legal proceedings closely.”

The charge stems from a fight on March 5 at Posh Bagel in the Rivermark Plaza between Miller and his girlfriend, according to a police report.

A few new details were revealed on Monday with the announcement of Miller's charge. Prosecutors said that Miller and his girlfriend were arguing in a parking garage at the Rivermark Hyatt House in Santa Clara. What they were fighting about has not been made public.

The girlfriend originally told police Miller had pushed her out of the car before he grabbed her cell phone from her and smashed it. In a later interview, prosecutors said she denied that there had been any physical contact during the fight.

Prosecutors added that his girlfriend refused medical attention and did not sustain any visible injuries or complain of any pain.

An independent witness, who was sitting at a nearby bagel shop, told police she saw Miller and his girlfriend leave the garage on foot as they argued. The witness saw Miller throw a cell phone
against an exterior business wall. The witness allowed the girlfriend to call police.

At the time of the arrest, the team issued a statement: "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.

Bay City News contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Santa Clara Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Principal Bought Jewelry with School Credit Card]]> Tue, 26 May 2015 17:22:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/main14.jpg

Updated 5/26 with written response from Kristina Clecak.

Sources from Oak Grove School District in San Jose want the superintendent to do something about a middle school principal with what they say are questionable spending habits.

The sources came to the NBC Bay Area Investigative after they say the Superintendent’s office didn’t do enough to address their concerns about Bernal Intermediate School Principal Kristina Clecak.

“Someone has to listen. Someone has to look at this,” said a district employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “Our job is to protect the public’s money to educate these children.”

In October, the Investigative Unit requested Clecak’s expense reports based on an insider’s tip.

“That scared them,” the source said. “That was an ‘oh dear, someone is finding out about this’ moment for them.”

The records revealed 17 charges in 2012 to a web-based jewelry company, Stella and Dot totaling more than $2600. According to its website, Stella and Dot is “a social selling company that creates flexible entrepreneurial opportunities” in addition to a retail portal.

Our insider sources say they’re frustrated with Clecak’s attempt to use district dollars in her side business as an independent stylist for Stella and Dot. Records show the district flagged the charges as “not allowable” when she submitted her expense reports.

The district forced Clecak to reimburse the charges, but did not remove her credit card privileges until more than two years later. “It’s happened within the last four months,” the source said. “I truly believe it happened because of your investigation.”

Since our original story aired, Clecak sent NBC Bay Area an email which said in part, “Yes, there was an error to a credit card from 2012. It was an error and was recognized and rectified immediately. Again after viewing that the card number was accidentally ‘saved’ charges were added as an error.” She also said “at the time $10 was allowed for gifts for staff and titled a gift allowance.”

Clecak also provided NBC Bay area with a photo of a letter from the Oak Grove School District, which acknowledged a total of $190 allowable for 19 staff gifts and appears to have been sent within a few months after the charges were made. The letter details Clecak owing the district more than $1300, and she was given until June of 2013 to pay it back.

Sources inside the district say they’ve questioned Clecak’s expenses for years since she was a principal at an elementary school in the district. “Six years of this type of stuff, being brought to the administration and nothing being done. It continues year after year,” the source said.

In 2014, The union created a survey for Bernal teachers to evaluate Principal Clecak. Nearly two-thirds of the teachers answered 60 questions. Some of the comments included, “…she’s the absolute antithesis of a leader,” and “My principal is unethical and picks on or bullies teachers.” According to the Survey, there were 309 unsatisfactory responses. “That’s huge. That’s an alarming number,” said Josie Carillo-Johnson, the former teachers union president, who conducted the survey. “Our teachers are held accountable and there was absolutely no accountability for her behavior.”

In her email, Clecak dismissed the union’s surveys: “My Evaluations, serving and leading at award winning schools under my leadership, are from the Superintendent and I would gladly showcase all they entail. They are meaningful, rigorous and stellar. We have Closed Achievement Gaps, created strong teacher leadership and enhanced learning environments for students and staff to thrive.”

“They call her the ghost, the ghost principal,” said Lynne Martinez, the President of the Oak Grove Educators Association Union. “She’s not seen on campus. She’s not seen in the classrooms.”

The teacher’s union just completed another survey on Principal Clecak’s performance. This time, less than half of the teachers completed the survey. The numbers do show an improvement, but a number of teachers still raised similar concerns about their principal.

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit requested an interview with Superintendent Jose Manzo to discuss the expense reports and the teacher’s survey. Citing private personnel matters, the district declined to answer the questions raised by staff, teachers, and the union, but did release a statement saying in part, “The credit cards in isolated situations were not being used consistent with (district) policy and it took appropriate action.”


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<![CDATA[ACLU Launches App to Film Police]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 23:42:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mobile-justice-app-2015-04-30.jpg

The ACLU of Northern California launched a free cell phone recording app Thursday which would allow people to record and send videos to their local ACLU affiliates when they feel their rights are being violated by police.

The app comes as protests decrying police violence are taking over the country, most recently for the controversial death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who died after suffering a spinal cord injury in Baltimore.

The Mobile Justice app is unique in the sense that it will allow videos captured by the app to be preserved in the case police seize or destroy the device.

“The concerns over police practices, including racial profiling and excessive use of force, are very real for communities across the state,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. “This app will help serve as a check on abuse — whether by police officers, sheriff’s deputies, border patrol, or other officials — allowing ordinary citizens to record and document any interaction with law enforcement.”

The app, which can be downloaded through Apple's App store or Google Play, lets users register, record, witness and report interactions with law enforcement officials, ACLU said.

“From Rodney King to Walter Scott, we’ve seen video bring police abuse into public view that otherwise could have gone ignored,” said Peter Bibring, director of police practices at the ACLU SoCal. “Helping the public record law enforcement will help deter misconduct and document abuse when it does happen, so both officers and the criminal justice system can be held accountable.”

Video of a police officer shooting Walter Scott in South Carolina when Scott appeared to be unarmed shocked the entire nation and sparked protests. The officer involved in the incident was later charged with murder.

"People using their camera phone to record police interactions with members of the public can be hugely powerful -- can reveal the truth that would otherwise be concealed," said Michael Risher, an ACLU senior staff attorney.

For more information on the app, visit the ACLU website.

]]>
<![CDATA[Teen Charged With Murder After Boy, 9, Stabbed]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 18:48:36 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/jordonbaseballmain1.jpg

An 18-year-old Discovery Bay, Northern California, man was charged Tuesday with murder after a 9-year-old boy was stabbed to death Sunday at his home. Prosecutors claimed in court that William "Billy" Shultz used a knife to fatally stab his friend's little brother as the third grader slept.

Shultz's family left the courthouse without comment Tuesday after learrning he will not be arraigned in court until Wednesday. "They feel terrible, they feel horrible — their thoughts and prayers are with the family of this child," said Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky, who is representing Shultz.

Lipetsky said there was "no question in her mind" that mental illness is what led to this tragic event.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Contra Costa Times on Monday, Shultz said he stabbed Jordon "Jordy" Almgren of Discovery Bay to "see what it was like." "I wanted to see what it was like to take a life before someone tried to take mine," Schultz said in the interview.

Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves said prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for Shultz because of his age and because he had no prior criminal record.

Shultz  was also charged with the special circumstances of lying in wait and residential burglary, Graves explaned that in addition to stabbing Almgren to death on Sunday with a knife, Shultz is charged with taking a car key from a room in the Almgren home and the circumstance of taking a victim by suprise or ambush before killing him or her.

Shultz is being held on $1 million bail.

Lipetzky said the family did all they could to get their son mental health help. The Contra Costa Sheriff's Department confirms Shultz's family called officers requesting a mental health check less than 24 hours before the stabbing.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's deputies said Shultz was briefly hospitalized on Saturday after his family requested an evaluation of his mental health status. "The deputies responded to his house and made contact with Shultz," said Contra Costa sheriff's deputy Jimmy Lee. "Based on their evaluation they said he did not meet the criteria" to be placed on an involuntary mental health hold.

According to the California Welfare and Institutions Code, a mentally unstable person can only be detained if they show signs that they are a danger to others or themselves.

Still, Shultz voluntarily agreed to be taken to the hospital and was later released by a doctor, deputies said. He went to sleep at the Almgren home on Saturday night. There were others sleeping at the home too, Graves said.

On Sunday morning, deputies say Shultz stabbed the boy about 10 a.m. at his Discovery Bay home in the 1800 block of Frost Way.

About 3 p.m. that same day, Schultz was arrested at a Kaiser hospital in Antioch after an alert nurse recognized him from social media and alerted authorities, Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Ken Westermann said.

Shultz suffered two stab wounds on his wrist, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Attempts to interview Jordon's parents were unsuccessful.


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<![CDATA[Suspect Hospitalized Day Before Stabbing]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 07:47:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/jordonbaseballmain1.jpg

Contra Costa County Sheriff's officials say William "Billy" Shultz, arrested for stabbing a 9-year-old boy Sunday, was briefly hospitalized the day before after his family requested an evaluation of his mental health status.

Deputies on Monday said they responded to Shultz's residence in Discovery Bay on Saturday when his family requested that they evaluate his mental health status, but determined he did not meet the criteria to be placed on an involuntary mental health hold, according to the Contra Costa Times, which the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office confirmed.

But Shultz, 18, voluntarily agreed to be taken to the hospital and was later released by a doctor, deputies said. He went to sleep at the Almgren home, where he is friends with 9-year-old Jordon "Jordy" Almgren's older brother, on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, deputies say Shultz stabbed the boy about 10 a.m. at his Discovery Bay home in the 1800 block of Frost Way, according to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

About 3 p.m. that same day, Shultz, who friends say attends Liberty High School, was arrested at a Kaiser hospital in Antioch in connection with the brutal death after an alert nurse recognized him from social media, Contra Costa County Sheriff's Deputy Ken Westermann said. She told authorities that he was in the emergency department. He suffered two stab wounds on his wrist, according to the Contra Costa Times.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Contra Costa Times Monday, Shultz said he stabbed Jordon to "see what it was like." "I wanted to see what it was like to take a life before someone tried to take mine," Schultz said in the interview.

When a reporter asked Shultz whether he felt any remorse about his actions, he said sobbing: "I wish that I hadn't. I think about what if that was my little brother." "In that sense, I do feel bad. I do have remorse for what I did ... But there's a reason for everything that happens."

Attempts to interview Shultz's parents were unsuccessful.

On Monday, amidst the growing mounds of candles, flowers and teddy bears, were a San Francisco Giants balloon or two  — a nod to the game of baseball that "Jordy"  loved during his short life.

"This little guy was the most energetic on the team," Jordy's Little League coach Mike De Lambert told NBC Bay Area. "Great smile. And he was infectious, in a positive way, to everybody that he came in contact with."

"He was really kind, really nice," said Kiran McWilliams, a longtime family friend.

The third grader at Timber Point Elementary School and avid "Angels" baseball player.

Neighbors said Shultz was always at the Almgren's home and may have been living here temporarily. Some say Shultz was kicked out of his own home, and may have been kicked out of the boy's home at some point as well.

One of Shultz's friends, Robbie Jones, said Shultz seemed OK to him. "I just saw him at the gym," Jones said. "It didn't seem like anything was wrong with him."

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call the sheriff's office at (925) 646-2441.

NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez, Bob Redell and Marianne Favro and Bay City News contributed to this report.


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<![CDATA[Peet's Coffee Makes Golden State Warriors Blend]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:39:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/468634266.jpg

Two unlikely Bay Area brands have joined forces.

Peets Coffee & Tea has launched a coffee in honor of the Golden State Warriors basketball team called Warriors Grounds.

The formula for Warriors Grounds, a combination of single origin coffees, was decided through taste tests by fans. According to the Peet's website, the winning combination is "a heavy-duty blend based on the earthy, syrupy, teak and tobacco-like qualities of Sumatra, plus the balance, full body, and brightness of Java and Papua New Guinea. Another consistent crowd favorite is a sparkling, spicy blend with origins in Latin America. To both of these we added a twist—the same twist—the silky sweet magic of Kenya."

The limited edition blend will be available until May 30. The company will donate 5 percent of the proceeds to the Warriors Community Foundation.

San Francisco Business Times reported that Warriors Grounds made its debut on Wednesday when Peet's gave away 100 free bags of the blend at the final regular season game at Oracle Arena.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Scientists Create Algae-Based Sustainable Surfboard]]> Fri, 24 Apr 2015 07:45:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Algae+surfboard.jpg

San Diego scientists say they have created the world’s first algae-based sustainable surfboard.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Arctic Foam, an Oceanside Company, made the polyurethane foam core and glassed the board before presenting it to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer before Earth Day.

The project began several months ago when undergraduate biology students collaborated with chemistry students to solve a simple question: how do you make the precursor of a surfboard’s foam core from algae oil? Most surfboards today are made exclusively from petroleum.

Steven Mayfield, a professor of biology and algae geneticist at UCSD, lead researchers when making the board. Mayfield and his team worked to chemically change the oil obtained from laboratory algae and morph them into types of “polyols” to produce the core of the new surfboard.

“In the future, we’re thinking about 100 percent of the surfboard being made that way—the fiberglass will come from renewable resources, the resin on the outside will come from a renewable resource,” Mayfield said in a statement.

The board was built at Arctic Foam’s headquarters in Ensenada, Mexico and brought to Oceanside. It looks just like other surfboards, Mayfield said, but because of the material it is built from, is sustainable.

Mayfield, a surfer himself, said he and others have been faced with the sustainability contradiction when on the water. His connection to the ocean requires a surfboard made of petroleum, an unsustainable board.

“This shows that we can still enjoy the ocean, but do so in an environmentally sustainable way,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said they hoped Faulconer would display the board so others would see how the city could be a hub for innovation and collaboration on many levels. 

“It perfectly fits with the community and our connection with the ocean and surfing," Mayfield said. "And it also shows the biotechnology and innovation that we can bring to bear here in San Diego in a very collaborative way.”



Photo Credit: Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Mountain Lion Discovered Under L.A. House Is Back on the Move ]]> Tue, 14 Apr 2015 10:14:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/197*120/04-14-2015-mountain-lion-p22-2.JPG

A mountain lion discovered Monday afternoon under a Southern California hillside home was back on the move Tuesday after slipping out from under the house's crawl space and back into Los Angeles' Griffith Park, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Home security technicians encountered the whiskered intruder while installing equipment at a home in Los Feliz. But it wasn't just any mountain lion -- officials determined the big cat was famous research animal P-22 who was in the home's crawl space. The mountain lion remained at the house, monitored by California Fish and Wildlife officials, into the late hours of Monday and likely left some time early Tuesday morning.

"It's got to be at least 150 pounds!" said Jason Archinaco, the owner of the home as he looked at the giant cat lodged in the small space of his home.

"(The technician) came face-to-face with it, and he was horrified, and who can blame him? My husband said he came running through the house white-faced," Archinaco's wife Paula said.

He said the city's animal control officers couldn't remove the wildcat because it's too large. California Fish and Wildlife had attempted to coax him out with a tennis ball launcher in the hope he would run back to the mountains, however it failed to work. They even tried shooting a few beanbag rounds into the area in an attempt to get him out.

The animal remained under the house, despite the area being cleared overnight in an attempt to let him come out on his own free from distractions under cover of darkness. Game wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife couldn't see any signs of the big cat, including alerts from its electronic monitor, in the crawl space as of 9 a.m. 

At about 9:30 a.m., the department tweeted, "Official all-clear. No sign of #p22. The cougar has left the building." The lion's radio telemetry monitoring device later showed it had returned to the 4,300-acre Griffith Park.

The home, in the 2700 block of Glendower Avenue, is close to Griffith Park, where P-22 lives. He was treated for poisoning and mange last year but appeared OK after treatment. P-22 made Griffith Park his home three years ago after crossing two freeways from the Santa Monica mountains.

There are about 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California, but wildlife officials call that a crude estimate without an ongoing statewide study. More than half of the state is considered prime habitat for the big cats, which can be found wherever deer are present.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd and Robert Kovacik contributed to this article



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Dies in Burning Vehicle After Crash: CHP]]> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 07:04:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2015-04-07_6-20-57.jpg

All lanes of northbound U.S. Highway 101 at De La Cruz Boulevard  in San Jose were closed for about three hours Tuesday morning after a multi-vehicle crash killed at least one person whose vehicle was on fire after a crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The first call of the crash came in at 12:22 a.m., CHP Officer  Matt Rasmussen said. When officers arrived, they found an In-N-Out pickup truck and another vehicle involved in the accident. The driver of one of the vehicles was trapped inside his burning vehicle, the CHP said, and he was later pronounced dead.

The driver of the In-N-Out pickkup truck was not injured.

The CHP said that it seems like one of the vehicles was stopped in the lanes and the second vehicle hit it.

Northbound 101 opened at 3 a.m.

Bay City News contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: Allen Weddington]]>
<![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[Millions of Americans Victims of Medical Identity Theft]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 23:51:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RONNIE-AND-VICKY.jpg

Last year, millions of Americans were charged a total of $20 billion for medical services they never received. It’s because of “medical identity theft”—a crime that’s up to 20 times more lucrative than credit card theft.

San Jose resident Ronnie Bogle had no idea his medical ID was stolen until he was rejected in a new credit card application.

“I was really surprised,” he said. “I only have one other credit card and all my payments are on time.”

When the automatic credit report showed up in the mail, he discovered a long trail of unpaid medical bills.

“I was horrified,” said Bogle. “It was literally pages and pages and pages upon pages and more pages of unpaid medical treatments, hospital visits, emergency care that I knew were not mine.”

The treatments were all over the country from Florida and Tennessee to Colorado and Washington. Bogle shared his records with the Investigative Unit, including a $728 charge for an ER treatment at St. Joseph’s in Washington.

Bogle said he had never even set foot in some of those states.

“There are unpaid bills in the thousands of dollars,” said Bogle. “I knew something was very, very wrong.”

Medical identity theft is much harder to recover from than credit card theft. It’s been five years since Ronnie first discovered the trail of medical bills and he is still battling hospitals over the bills.

Unlike with financial ID theft, where you can shut down a bank account or get a new credit card, it’s much tougher to regain control of your medical identity.

“Your medical identity includes things like your date of birth, your social security number, your health insurance,” said Ann Patterson from the Medical ID Fraud Alliance. “Those are things you cannot just shut down and [get] a new one.”

In a new study, Patterson and the Medical ID Fraud Alliance found that medical identity theft was up 21.7% in 2014, affecting 2.3 million Americans. In the majority of cases (65%), victims had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime. The total damages added up to $20 billion in 2014 alone.

The threat also poses serious health risks, Patterson said.

“If your medical identity is corrupted by the thief’s medical information – so their blood type, their allergies, their diseases, their health conditions are reflected in your health, when you go to get medical goods or services, you can be misdiagnosed or mistreated.”

If a fraudster registers a medical allergy you don’t have, for instance, that allergy will go on your medical record. The next time you’re in a hospital, you might be prevented from getting medicine you need.

Tom Flattery, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney, said the best defense against medical identity theft is a good offense. He recommends that when people get an explanation of benefits in the mail, they read it carefully to make sure it describes only the treatment they actually received. If something doesn’t look right, Flattery said, you have the right to request your medical records at any time, for any reason.

“You have to protect your medical information from friends and family just like you would with your credit information,” said Flattery.

Medical identity theft by family members is actually extremely common. About a quarter of the people in Patterson’s study had their medical identities stolen by family members. In fact, Ronnie Bogle believes his identity was stolen by his long-lost brother, Gary Bogle.

“We used to look a lot alike,” said Bogle.

And now the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office is investigating Gary Bogle for identity theft, based on what the Investigative unit has uncovered.”

Ronnie’s brother Gary worked for a carnival company, which would help to explain the nomadic medical treatments all over the country. The Investigative Unit tracked Gary Bogle to Washington state where he was arrested or cited eight times since last November, mostly for nuisance issues and drunken conduct. Each violation was recorded in the name of Ronnie Bogle.

“It’s terrifying,” said Bogle about the criminal record that has accumulated in his name.

The Investigative Unit obtained footage from a patrol car that arrested Gary for public urination and disturbing the peace. In the footage, the police can be clearly heard calling Gary Bogle, “Ronnie” to get his attention

“Yes. My name,” said Ronnie Bogle, watching the footage the Investigative Unit obtained. “And I’m seeing some disgusting person handcuffed.”

The real Ronnie Bogle has reported the theft of his identity to the police. Santa Clara Deputy District Attorney Tom Flattery said that’s the first thing a victim should do, even if it seems like its just paperwork.

“We’ve got to start somewhere. We’ve got to start with the report,” said Flattery.

Another good defense tactic is to obtain an “identity theft file.” It puts an alert on your name so that any time police run your name, they also have to ask for a password. If the person stealing that identity doesn’t have that password, police know they’re dealing with an imposter. This identity theft file is from Everett police department in Washington, but you can print it out and ask your local police department if they have a similar program. The FBI has more information here.


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<![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]]>