<![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 Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:05:01 -0800 Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:05:01 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[President Obama’s ISIS Strategy a Good One, Experts Say]]> Sat, 21 Nov 2015 17:39:55 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/N5P+AIR+STRIKES+SETUP+VO+-+00000302.jpg

President Obama announced on Monday his plan to continue attacking ISIS through air assaults following the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

"It's best we don't shoot first and aim later,” the president said at a press conference from Turkey, where we was attending the G20 Summit. “It's important to get the strategy right."

The announcement sparked a chorus of criticism from the Republican Party, and many of the president’s opponents argued that ground force is the only way to knock out the terrorist group and prevent future attacks.

But former Department of Defense official Gloria Duffy told NBC Bay Area that the president’s current strategy, though cautious, is a good one.

“I think the president is trying to take steps now that are most appropriate now and most effective now,” said Duffy, who currently serves as the CEO of the Commonwealth Club, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in San Francisco.

Duffy points out that a prime comparison for the current situation is the War in Iraq, which involved swift boots-on-the-ground action by the U.S. government. That war overthrew Saddam Hussein, but it also created the political climate that helped give rise to ISIS.

It’s better to be cautious and calculated, she said.

“Right now I think it’s about trying to cut off the financial support that ISIS has,” she said.

ISIS earns up to $50 million per month transporting and selling crude oil.

According to the Department of Defense , the United States has already damaged or destroyed more than 16,000 ISIS targets, including buildings and oil infrastructure, at a total cost of $5 billion.

Duffy argues boots on the ground would cost much more, both monetarily and in the number of lives lost.

By not stepping in, the U.S. is making room for other countries to take the lead, Duffy added.

“In a way, it’s allowing other countries to step up and become fuller partners in this battle,” she said.

Duffy says that it will ultimately take a coalition approach to defeat ISIS, because the size of the group—estimates range from 60,000 to 250,000 total members—could thwart attacks by ground forces.

“It’s not likely to be thoroughly successful,” she said. “You try those methods that are least costly to yourself first.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[University of Texas Study Links Meat to Kidney Cancer]]> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 13:14:57 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Meat--AP_723371233067.jpg

Another study has shown people who eat more meat have a high risk of cancer. This time, it's kidney cancer, researchers reported Monday. And it's not just people who eat red meat, as many other studies have shown. People who eat more so-called white meat, such as chicken, have the higher risk, too.

Dr. Xifeng Wu and colleagues at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston studied 659 patients just diagnosed with kidney cancer and compared them to 699 similar people without cancer, NBC News reported.

They wanted to break down not just the link, but to tease out the factors that might explain it. They looked at what kinds of meat people ate, how they cooked it, as well as people's genetic makeup to see if certain genes made them more susceptible.

People who said they ate the most grilled meat — red meat and chicken alike — had a higher risk of kidney cancer, they reported in the journal Cancer. And those with two genetic mutations that already put people at higher risk of kidney cancer were most affected by the grilled meat risk.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Car Safety Chief Backs Seat Belts on School Buses]]> Mon, 09 Nov 2015 12:16:34 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SchoolBusGettyImages-485211876.jpg

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is endorsing three-point seat belts on school buses for the first time. In the past, NHTSA has suggested that retrofitting school buses with seat belts was a costly proposition and that buses, sans seat belts, were safe, NBC News reported.

"The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in an interview Sunday. "That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA's policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt."

Rosekind also acknowledged this initial step in the rulemaking process could prove challenging and anticipated some pushback.

The National Association for Pupil Transportation, a school bus industry group, responded that such decisions should be left to cities and states, not federal regulators.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Paul Ryan Gets Third Most Speaker Votes in Two Decades]]> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 18:04:31 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/republicanos-eligen-a-paul-ryan-como-lider-de-la-camara-de-representantes-de-estados-unidos-sucesor-de-john-boehner.jpg

In the days leading up to his election as Speaker of the House, it appeared Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would not only face Washington’s partisan politics in the new role, but also a schism within his own party.

Some of the more conservative members of the party, like North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, voiced concern about voting for Ryan, feeding the perception of a fractured caucus.

Outside an event earlier this week, Jones told reporters, “If I knew it was a Paul Ryan rally for Speaker of the House, I wouldn’t be here.”

But when all votes were cast and the final results tallied, Ryan won a near consensus from his party. He received 236 out of 245 votes cast by Republicans, or 96 percent.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, that raw number of votes—236—marks the third highest number of total votes received by a Speaker of the House candidate in the last two decades.

That means nine of the previous twelve roll calls for speaker failed to reach Ryan’s total.

He was bested only by John Boehner, who received 241 votes in 2011 and Nancy Pelosi, who garnered 255 votes in 2009.

There are some other factors that affect the vote total, like the size of the majority party. In this instance, Republicans control a lot of real estate in Congress, so the speaker should garner more votes than if the party’s lead were slimmer.

Regardless, the fissure within his own party seems to have abated for the moment, but in his new role, Ryan faces perhaps an even greater schism, that of Washington’s partisan politics. It’s a gap that he hopes to help narrow.

“We are turning a page,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We are not going to have a House that looked like it looked the last few years. We are going to move forward.” 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mission Moratorium Won't Halt Housing Demand]]> Tue, 27 Oct 2015 18:06:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/1027-2015-PropI.jpg

Red hot demand for properties all over San Francisco has set housing costs skyrocketing all over the city, and perhaps nowhere is the frenzy for housing more obvious than the Mission District.

That’s why some longtime residents have lobbied hard for a moratorium on market-rate building in that neighborhood. The 18-month pause on building, or Proposition I, appears on the San Francisco ballot next week.

Would halting the supply of housing preserve affordable properties and stem displacement in that neighborhood?

Not necessarily, experts told NBC Bay Area.

“What we need is new housing,” said Ralph McLaughlin, a housing economist with real-estate website Trulia. “And so, at least at a superficial level, if we are saying, ‘Let’s stop building housing,’ that is not going to make things more affordable,” he added.

In other words, halting the supply while the demand continues to grow could only make matters worse.

“The evictions and the displacement is happening in the Mission because it’s an incredibly amazing and popular neighborhood and a lot of people are moving in,” said San Francisco Supervisor, Scott Wiener, an opponent of Prop I. “When you have a lot of people moving in and you don’t have enough housing, people compete for that housing stock.”

He says market rate, or privately-produced housing, is a significant source of funding for affordable housing.

“Developers either build a certain percentage of their units on site as affordable, which is good because it creates [affordable] units, or they pay a fee which then goes into building affordable housing in San Francisco,” he said.

Proponents of the measure, like Fernando Marti, Co-Director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, say that the proposition is a much-needed time out while city leaders look for a solution that works for everyone, new and longtime residents.

“We’re going to pause to figure out where we’re going to build this housing, and how we’re going to create a balance, and if we need rezoning and other tools,” he said.

Research shows the Mission is swiftly changing, but it’s not necessarily new building that is driving up prices there.

In 2014, about 3500 new units were built in San Francisco, but only 75 of those went up in the Mission.

All sides of Prop I want to see more affordable housing in the Mission, there’s just some disagreement on the best pathway to get there.

For CCHO’s Fernando Marti, it’s ultimately less about halting building and more about halting the displacement that has plagued the city’s oldest neighborhood.

“We believe as a city, as an ethical mandate, that we should have a diverse city,” he said. “And that runs counter to the market.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[SF Housing Bond Aims to Make City More Affordable]]> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 18:29:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mayor+edwin+lee.jpg

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has been hitting the campaign trail in recent weeks to promote Proposition A, a $310 million bond measure on the city’s ballot this year. 

Mayor Lee has pushed the proposition as a critical piece of a longer-term solution to build and rehabilitate thousands of homes for low and middle income people in the city.

According to San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, the city has never had a greater need for new housing solutions.

“It’s always bad here, but it’s as bad or worse than I’ve ever seen it,” he said.

But how big a dent could a $310 million bond measure actually make?

In the last decade, San Francisco has created or preserved 8,000 units of multi-family affordable housing at a cost of about $155,000 per unit, according to data from the Mayor’s Office on Housing and Community Development.

Using those metrics as a blueprint for how far the bond money could stretch, the city could end up with as many as 2,000 units, new and rehabilitated, if Prop A is approved by voters.

Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign office declined NBC Bay Area’s request for an interview, but Scott Wiener says the 2,000 new and rehabilitated units provided by the proposition are certainly a step in the right direction.

The longtime advocate of affordable housing lauds the mayor’s two-pronged approach laid out in Prop A.

“Way too much of the public housing stock is dilapidated, is in just terrible, sometimes unliveable conditions,” he said. “So it is incumbent on us to rehabilitate and shore up that existing public housing stock, in addition to building new units.”

The proposition grants permission for the city to borrow up the $310 million in bonds, but it doesn’t specify exactly how that money will be spent.

It also creates a blueprint for building new affordable units, fixing dilapidated ones and helping first-time homebuyers, but it doesn’t guarantee a certain number of units must be built or preserved.

The proposition requires a two-thirds majority vote. Despite two recent attempts, a housing bond has not been passed by San Francisco voters since 1996.

In a television commercial promoting Prop A, Mayor Lee says the measure will not raise taxes.

That’s not entirely true. The proposition would still tax homeowners. Those property taxes would average out to about $80 per million dollars of property owned according to the city’s Office of the Controller.

However, the new housing bond would technically replace old bonds set to expire, so the property tax rate would carry over. If the bond doesn’t pass and the other older bonds expire, residents would actually see property taxes go down.

NBC Bay Area spoke to numerous individuals in city government and the nonprofit sector and found very few vocal opponents to Proposition A.

On the streets of the Mission District, perhaps one of the city’s most strongly affected real estate markets, a chorus of passersby sang their frustrations over the city’s current housing climate.

“We should be able to afford it,” said Anna Lanuza, a mother of three who moved out of the city five years ago. “My sons should be able to live here. They were born here in San Francisco. It’s not fair.”

“Finding any kind of housing has been impossible. People just don’t even answer you,” added Shelby Rosabal, a recent transplant to the city.

“It’s not easy, and it’s not guaranteed,” said John Barham, a Mission resident and band manager. “For the most part, if I pulled up a Craigslist [ad] or talked to a realtor, there’d be no way I could find and afford the rent that every place is asking.”

Though incensed by the current circumstances, many were also hard pressed to lose hope that a solution could be found.

“I want to see us build as much housing as we can for people just like me who are middle income and work very hard,” said city resident Eileen Shields.

Bay Area mom of three Anna Lanuza agrees. That’s why she’s in favor of Prop A.

“Let’s hope, fingers crossed, that it’ll pass to help all this,” she said. “Not only for me but my kids, for the future, that they are able to afford it.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[East Palo Alto Program Tackles Violence]]> Wed, 04 Nov 2015 07:49:04 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/EPA+POLICE+EAST+PALO+ALTO+POLICE+VO+-+00005305.jpg

A program in East Palo Alto gets people outside and into the parks in the worst parts of town. It’s called the Fit Zone Program, and it’s driving down crime in the city.

In 2012, then Police Chief Ron Davis implemented the program. Officers focused on parks with a high number of recorded gunshots throughout the year, detected using Shotspotter. Jack Farrell Park was identified as one of the problem areas.

“It was a park that used to be inhabited by a bunch of drug dealers, people drinking alcohol,” said current Police Chief Albert Pardini.

Then, the Fit Zone Program started. People were invited to play volleyball into the night. Kids were drawing, coloring, and studying on the park benches. Officers would ride bikes with teenagers in the neighborhood. The parks cleaned up.

“It went from 2,400 [gunshots recorded by Shotspotter] four years ago, to approximately 630 last year,” said Chief Pardini of Jack Farrell Park.

Ricardo Alvarado lives near the park and is now heavily involved in the Fit Zone Program with his family.

“This area was bad at that time years ago, and we want to live in this area and make some changes,” he said.

The group even painted large murals at two different parks. Director of Outreach Dany Ceseña says gang members saw kids painting those murals, and won’t tag the walls out of respect.

“By coming out and essentially participating in elementary style recess...and working on small arts projects people are able to reclaim their city,” he said.

This week, Chief Pardini is adding his own initiative with the help of local church groups. Together, they created the Clean Zone Program. Community members will spend Saturdays picking up trash and painting over graffiti. They’ll even paint homes and fences for seniors who can't themselves. Pastor Timoteo Uelese will lead the first cleanup this Saturday.

“There were some problems in our city with drive-by shootings. We're thinking if we take the streets, these people will not come back again. We belong to this place,” Pastor Uelese said.

It’s part of a one-two punch to combat crime. The families are taking back their city from criminals. Some, like 8th grade Gabriel, are happy to call it home once again.

“People used to think of us as bad people just because we live in East Palo Alto,” he said. “Not anymore."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Samsung Launches in Silicon Valley]]> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 17:45:50 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/samsung13.JPG

Tech giant Samsung is putting a large footprint in Silicon Valley, with the goal of taking on its arch-rival and now neighbor, Apple.

First Street in North San Jose now houses about 700 Samsung employees; the company says the complex, located at North First Street and Tasman Drive, can house 2,000 employees. The new building is ten stories tall, with everything you'd imagine for a giant tech company: gym, cafeteria, even "chill zones." 

"We will make this 1.1 billion square foot building a place of growth, with two thousand local jobs here," said Dr. O.S. Kwon, CEO of Samsung Electronics.

Samsung is making a big push to hire engineers and other people in Silicon Valley. The company's rivalry with Apple has been well documented, playing out both in retail stores and in courtrooms.

Now, it will play out in the hotbed of technology itself.

"The gamers may go to San Francisco, we're happy to have grownups in San Jose," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "A diverse set of tech jobs ... a sustainable set of jobs."

Apple and Google also have plans to expand in San Jose, which is great news for the city. But all these new jobs bring up an old problem: more traffic, and a need for new solutions.

"The big thinking is more transit, we have to bite the bullet, and spend the money," San Jose's vice mayor Rose Herrera said..

Scott follows phones on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Scott Budman
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<![CDATA[CA Farmers Make Record Revenues Despite Drought]]> Fri, 18 Sep 2015 18:36:23 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0918-2015-Farm.jpg

California’s Central Valley is home to some of the richest agricultural land in the country.

The region has been hit hard by the drought, and shrinking reservoirs have raised concerns that farmers’ profits have dried up, too.

However, data shows that is not the case.

According to reports from the United States Department of Agriculture compiled and analyzed by a team of researchers at the Pacific Institute, a water policy think tank based in Oakland, California farmers have made record revenues in the past two fiscal years.

In 2013, California agriculture raked in a record $51 billion dollars. The following year, the industry topped out at $54 billion.

“I think it’s counterintuitive,” says Heather Cooley, an expert at the Pacific Institute and co-author of the study. “I think many people thought that agricultural revenue would be down dramatically because there was less surface water available.”

Paul Wenger, a Modesto walnut farmer and president of the California Farm Bureau, warns that the numbers can be deceiving.

Farmers aren’t getting rich during the drought, he said.

“Our costs are also escalating,” he said. “As our costs escalate, our margins shrink, and so we’re not making the margins. Next year we’re probably looking at a losing year.”

For the first time since his grandfather gave life to the family farm back in 1910, Wenger says he’s had to dig two wells to steal from the ground what mother nature has failed to provide from the sky.

“I have to drill the well,” he said. “I have no option, and so while it’s expensive, it’s called survival.”
Wenger is not alone.

Thanks to historically dry conditions, farmers across the state have had to tap groundwater resources.

The process is not only expensive, but the resource is finite; eventually, the well runs dry.

“There’s a cost to families and communities that have to dig deeper wells,” the Pacific Institute’s Coolley says. “There’s a cost to repairing the damage to infrastructure. And there’s a cost to future generations, as well, that don’t have the water they’re going to need,” she added.

Simply put, the situation is not sustainable. High value crops, like almonds, table grapes and tomatoes, have helped keep profits afloat. So, too, has that first rush of reserve groundwater.

The numbers, however, are trending in the wrong direction.

Income for California agriculture peaked in 2014, but Wenger says that number dropped by 6 percent in 2014.

2015 is likely to be even worse, he added.

“If the drought was to continue at this rate for very much longer, we’ll be talking about people going into bankruptcy,” he said.

For now, the record revenues are a fleeting lifeline through a frustrating forecast.

“The good news is that at least now we’re making a little bit of money, which allows us to invest for our future to try to get by this drought,” Wenger said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Levi's Stadium Lights May Be Airport Safety Hazard]]> Sun, 20 Sep 2015 22:59:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/main21.jpg

Everything was routine as commercial pilot Christina Kurowicki prepared to land on Runway 30-L at San Jose Mineta International Airport on March 26, 2015.

She had been flying in and out of SJC as a corporate pilot for a Silicon Valley Tech company since 2011.

It as about 8:30 pm at night, past sunset but before midnight. As she guided the Gulfstream 550 toward the ground, the light hit her.

“At first I couldn’t really tell where it was coming from,” Kurowicki said. “We just knew that we were getting beams of light in our eye.”

Bright light flooded the cockpit, impairing her night vision and making it difficult to see outside. The beams were so bright, Kurowicki said, that it felt like a laser event. She could only look outside for moments at a time.

“The captain I was flying with noticed where it was coming from and we heard other pilots in the area complaining about the lights coming from the stadium,” Kurowicki said. “And at that point all we were really worried about was getting the aircraft on the ground safely.”

The lights were from Levi’s Stadium, which sits right in the flight path of runway 30-L.

“It was blinding. It was blinding,” said Kurowicki. “Incapacitating for sure.” Kurowicki and her captain had to work together to land the plane safely. She focused on the instruments while the captain did his best to look for air traffic.

“I was kind of mad,” Kurowicki said. “We got on the ground and put the airplane away and wrote our reports and as we were sitting there we were just pretty fumed.”

Kurowicki and her captain each filed a report with the FAA. She said the lights were so bright she ended up with a headache and her captain had to get medical treatment.

“Created a blind spot in my field of vision – had to rely on instruments until about 100 feet [above ground level] because of the distraction,” Kurowicki wrote in her report to the FAA.

Documented Problems

A months long NBC Bay Area investigation uncovered at least five other instances of pilots complaining about Levi’s lights. Those complaints were enough to prompt NASA to send two different safety alert bulletins to the FAA, San Jose Mineta International Airport and Santa Clara’s Stadium Authority about the problem.

In one written complaint, the pilot of a commercial 737 attempted to land at SJC on May, 2014 while the stadium operators performed tests on the scoreboard.

“The extremely bright stadium board display lights were on at full illumination and were an extreme visual distraction to us and other pilots on final approach,” the pilot wrote in his anonymous report to NASA. “The condition may create a problem of flicker vertigo for pilots.”

In another report, a pilot wrote that a sign on top of the stadium could be mistaken for an airport runway during bad weather.

“This sign could be very easily mistaken for the PAPI for runway 12R under poor visibility conditions,” wrote the pilot, “leading an unsuspecting crew to mistakenly correct to the left while descending and subsequently put them on a collision course with the stadium itself.”

A Warning, But Just a Warning

The FAA issued a Notice to all Airmen, sometimes called a “NOTAM,” in 2014, safety alert bulletin.

“A NOTAM is strictly just telling pilots this is what’s going on,” said Jim Clarkson, whose been flying the skies around San Jose professionally for 26 years. “It has very little actual effect on anything other than to make you aware.

The FAA concedes it has not required that the stadium adjust its lights or change the intensity of the scoreboard.

“We know that it cost a lot of money to build that stadium, but safety has to be first,” Clarkson said. “So if we have to reduce the wattage, if we have to put a cap over the lights, maybe we even have to limit when we turn them on.” The FAA refused interview requests from NBC Bay Area, but in a statement, public affairs manager Ian Gregor wrote that most of the reports it reviewed were when the scoreboard was being calibrated, making it brighter than usual:

“The FAA relayed these concerns to the stadium operator,” wrote Gregor, “which agreed to provide the FAA with advance notice of all scoreboard testing and not to test or calibrate it at night during scheduled airfield hours.”

Yet when pilots complained about another nearby stadium used by the San Jose Earthquakes, the team did make changes to its lighting.

Are Changes Needed?

“I was shocked and rather perplexed as to the template response that I’ve seen from the FAA,” said Jay Rollins, a former American Airlines pilot with 20 years experience.

Rollins now owns his own aviation safety consulting business and runs a blog out of South Florida.

Rollins said that a warning alone is gambling with safety, and hopes the 49ers will take action.

“I think at a very minimum the stadium should be installing shielding,” he said. “And as I sit here I hope that’s exactly what’s going on, because to leave it as it is, to me, invites trouble.”

The San Francisco 49ers also turned down interview requests from NBC Bay Area, but in a statement, the team wrote that “stadium management actively collaborates with the FAA as it relates to large scale events held at Levi’s Stadium and has not been made aware of any concerns with the stadium’s video boards since last year when the boards were being initially tested and calibrated.”

Although the team said it was not aware of any incidents since the stadium scoreboards were being initially tested, there was an ASRS report made in December, 2014, after football season was well under way. And Kurowicki and other pilots who have flown over the stadium as recently as September, 2015, tell NBC Bay Area it’s still a problem.

The 49ers’ statement continued, “We have a great appreciation for the FAA and have worked with them to establish protocols and guidelines in the event the boards need to be recalibrated. Our top priority is always to maintain the highest level of safety and security for all guests visiting Levi's Stadium as well as the general public.”

Rollins said it’s time the community be made aware of these issues.

“I think this is one of those situations where perhaps the community needs to be aware that this is a serious problem,” Rollins said. “They really have to choose between whether the lights in the stadium and the excitement that goes on there is more important than the safety of these arrivals. And I would urge them that your own relatives could be on some of these flights.”

To see for yourself what can happen when Levi’s Stadium Scoreboard lights up at night. Video taken by Mark Kadrich on September 3, 2015, around 8:30pm Pacific Time. 

<![CDATA[Booking Direct Not Always Cheapest Option]]> Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:26:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/WEB+6P+BROCK+REALITYCHECK+-+00001305.jpg

Marriott is pitching consumers the idea that going straight to the source—booking through the company’s website — is cheaper.

"It’s amazing what being direct can get you!" says one of the company’s newest ads, which features YouTube star Grace Helbig. "It pays to book direct."

Is that true? 

"It sounds good on the surface," says Steve Shur, President of the Travel Technology Association, a trade group for travel websites. "The reality is you don’t know what you don’t know." 

In other words, Shur says that without exploring the various options available on aggregation sites like Expedia and CheapTickets, consumers will have a tough time finding the best deal. 

Many travelers already operate under this assumption. 

"Sometimes I’ll go directly to the web site. Other times I’ll go to an Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity," Dan Margaz of Morgan Hill said as he prepared to board a flight at the San Jose International Airport this Thursday. "It all depends on where I can get the best rate," he added. 

NBC Bay Area analyzed pricing on Marriott’s website compared to several third party booking sites, and looked at the cost of booking a hotel room in three major cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — over one weekend in early October. 

The JW Marriott Essex House near Central Park in New York City is $479 a night on Marriott.com, which is slightly cheaper than the $490 posted for the same hotel on Travelocity and CheapTickets. 

However, take one look at the total tab, including taxes and fees, and the total price is the same across all three sites: $1130 for two nights’ stay. 

That principle held true for Chicago and Los Angeles, too. 

In other words, there was no discount for booking direct. 

There is one caveat. 

According to Marriott’s website, the company will match lower rates found on other sites, as well as provide a 25 percent discount, so you’ll have to do some true comparison shopping to make it pay to book direct.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Future of CA Death Penalty on Trial]]> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 21:01:01 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/WEB+6P+BROCK+REALITYCHECK+-+00005910.jpg

It’s been called “broken”, “dysfunctional” and a violation of basic rights, and now the state’s death penalty is up for debate in Southern California.

This week, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena heard arguments about the verdict in the case of convicted murderer, Ernest Jones.

Last year, a district court in Orange County overturned Jones’ death sentence. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney’s ruling said that delays in the state’s death penalty system rendered the punishment “ineffective” and a violation of the 8th Amendment.

The state of California disagrees.

“We do not believe that there is any evidence, certainly on this record that we’re aware of, that this system is arbitrary or random or leads to random results,” Michael Mongan, an attorney for the state, said in the hearing on Monday.

Could the circuit court’s decision put an end to capital punishment in California?

Not likely, says Frank Zimring, a death penalty expert and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The verdict that is being defended in the 9th Circuit is a long shot,” he said. “The most likely outcome will be that a panel of the 9th Circuit will reverse it.” Zimring opposes the death penalty.

He says this current legal battle is “an opportunity to inject into the judicial system a sort of wide angle, IMAX picture of the whole dysfunctional adventure of California with lethal injections and executions.”

Zimring adds that 749 people have been sentenced to death since the state instituted the death penalty in 1978. Since that time, only 13 have been executed, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In fact, execution is the third leading cause of death for California’s death row inmates behind natural causes and suicide, Zimring said.

Despite those numbers, Attorney General Kamala Harris is fighting to preserve the status quo.

In a statement released last week, she said the lower court’s decision to overturn Jones’ execution, “undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants.This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

So what are the potential outcomes of this case?

The court of appeals could wipe away capital punishment in California, but the state may show it is not up to the courts to decide the issue in the first place.

Adam Schiff, a congressman from California’s 28th district, told NBC Bay Area he has a hunch that attorneys might point to delays as proof the state doesn’t want to execute innocent people.

Still, he said the court proceedings could lead to change, one way or another.

“Given the costs of the death penalty, given the difficulties we’ve had with it, and given the difficulties other states have experienced with it, we need a wholesale review of whether this makes sense,” he said.

This court case could very well prove a tipping point on a tired subject here in California.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Defendant in Vallejo Kidnapping Blamed Vaccine, FBI Says]]> Thu, 03 Sep 2015 07:37:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/muller-mug.jpg

The man charged in a California kidnapping that police initially dismissed as a hoax said he acted alone, and that mental illness and a side effect from a vaccine contributed to his behavior, the FBI said in a court filing.

Matthew Muller made the comments to a television news reporter during a jailhouse interview in July, FBI Special Agent Wesley Drone said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant. The reporter was not allowed to record the interview and had been asked by Muller not to reveal his comments about acting alone and the vaccine. She did report that Muller said he felt bad for the kidnapping victim and thought the victim deserved an apology.

But the jail, which warns people that it records conversations with inmates, recorded the interview, including the portions that were off the record, Drone said. When discussing the kidnapping, Muller said there was no gang, and it was just him, according to the FBI affidavit.

The affidavit was in support of an application filed last month to search laptops, cellphones and other devices found at the South Lake Tahoe home where Muller was arrested and inside a Ford Mustang that has been linked to him.

Federal prosecutors charged Muller — a disbarred Harvard University-trained attorney — with the March kidnapping of Denise Huskins from her Vallejo, California, home after he was arrested in connection with an attempted robbery in Dublin, California, in June.

Muller's attorney, Thomas Johnson, said he had no comment on what his client allegedly told the reporter. Johnson is asking a judge to throw out much of the evidence in the case, saying it was obtained through the illegal search of a cellphone. Authorities have said they found the cellphone at the scene of the attempted robbery in Dublin.

Johnson has previously said his client will plead not guilty to the kidnapping charge and has pleaded not guilty to the home-invasion robbery in Dublin.

Huskins' boyfried, Aaron Quinn, reported that kidnappers broke into the couple's home on March 23, abducted Huskins and demanded money. His lawyers have said he awoke to a bright light in his face, and that two kidnappers bound and drugged him.

Huskins, 29, turned up safe two days later in her hometown of Huntington Beach, where she says she was dropped off. She showed up hours before the ransom was due.

After Huskins reappeared, Vallejo police said at a news conference the kidnapping was a hoax.

Palo Alto police have said Muller was also a suspect in a 2009 home invasion in that city, but they did not have enough evidence to recommend charges.

According to the FBI search warrant affidavit, Muller's wife reported him missing later in 2009. Muller said he was going off the grid, had problems beyond his mental health and was living in terror, the affidavit said.

He later called his wife from Utah, and she picked him up, according to the affidavit.

Photo Credit: Alameda County Sheriff]]>
<![CDATA[CA Drought Not Fault of Democrats]]> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 18:27:10 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_193078422826.jpg


California’s historic drought is flowing into new terrain: The Republican Primary.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” this week, Carly Fiorina told moderator Chuck Todd that climate change isn’t the only culprit costing California it’s precious water resources.
“You know what’s also made it worse?” she said. “Politicians. Liberal politicians who stood up for forty years as the population of California doubled and said you cannot build a new reservoir, and you cannot build a new water conveyance system.”
A quick tour through the history books—from the 1970’s to today—shows Fiorina’s claim is one-sided; both political parties have played a role in blocking reservoir construction in the Golden State.
In 1972, then-governor Ronald Reagan signed the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which protected many of the state’s rivers, namely the Eel River, from dam construction.
“Ronald Reagan is a very central figure in the water supply in California,” said Jeffrey Mount, a water policy expert at the Public Policy Institute of California. “He influenced the direction we went in both the seventies as well as the eighties, and we still see some of that today.”
Flash forward to today and Fiorina’s claim carries a little more weight.
Construction on two major projects—the Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs—has been stalled by California Democrats.
In April, Democrats in the legislature defeated AB 311, which would have “streamlined environmental reviews of water storage projects,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Plans for the two reservoir projects would have boosted the state’s storage capacity by trillions of gallons. Take into account a lack of rainwater, though, and the real impact of the projects will be much less significant, says PPIC’s Mount.
“The problem is, you can’t fill those dams,” he said. “You have other dams that already take the water.”
The Sites and Temperance Flat projects are just two of five proposed reservoir projects in California, Mount said. The total amount of water yielded by all of those projects combined would only increase statewide yield by one percent, he added.
That’s a drop in the bucket, he said.
NBC Bay Area’s political analyst Larry Gerston adds that even without political parties blocking dam construction, new reservoirs would have little impact this drought because dam projects take time, decades in some cases.
“You don’t just build a dam as if you’re building with Lego’s,” he said. “It’s an extraordinarily complicated project, the last part of which is the dam itself.”
The reality is, there are a lot of stakeholders involved when it comes to the construction of reservoirs, and both parties have helped build or block those water projects.
So, too, have voters, Gerston added.
Everyday citizens who exercise their right at the polls play a major role in the success of water bonds, like Governor Jerry Brown’s water bond proposal that voters approved last year.
One third of the money from that bond foes for storage projects, like dams.

<![CDATA[Santorum Slams Cruz on Visas, Immigration]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2015 18:31:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_457237193995.jpg

Things are heating up in the Republican primary, and the gloves are coming off when it comes to immigration.

Rick Santorum took a jab within his own party on Thursday, calling out Ted Cruz in a speech at the National Press Club.

Santorum told the crowd that as president he would prioritize giving jobs to Americans, not foreign workers.

"Again, this is in stark contrast with other Republicans, particularly Ted Cruz, who seeks to increase H1-B's five-fold," he said.

Where does Cruz line up on the visa issue?

Santorum is right.

The 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act was an immigration reform effort that included a plan to increase the federal cap for H-1B visas from 65,000 to 180,000.

That same year Cruz filed an amendment to the bill, which would further increase the cap to 325,000, or five times the base federal level.

But the immigration bill was a bipartisan effort, so Cruz wasn’t crossing party lines. In fact, the bill was sponsored by the so-called “Gang of Eight” which included current GOP presidential candidates Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Those two names were noticeably absent from Santorum's speech on Thursday.

An increase in the cap for H-1B visas could have a significant impact in Silicon Valley, where many companies rely on the visas to hire skilled foreign workers.

Applications for H-1B visas have increased significantly in the past several years. There were 124,000 applications for fiscal year 2014. That number nearly doubled for fiscal year 2016.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[El Niño Won't Solve CA Drought]]> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:34:45 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0819-2015-Flood.jpg

Some weather experts are predicting heavy rainfall this year in California, thanks to an El Niño that many hope will put an end to the historic drought.

“This is the Godzilla EL Niño if it matures and comes to fruition,” Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, told NBC News last week.

A recent statement released by California’s state climatologist Michael Anderson sings a different tune.

“California cannot count on potential El Niño conditions to halt or reverse drought conditions,” he wrote. “Historical weather data shows us that at best, there is a 50/50 chance of having a wetter winter.”

So just how likely is it that this year’s El Niño will put an end to the drought?

Not very likely, experts told NBC Bay Area.

To start, storm prediction is tricky business. Weather forecasting models typically run about two weeks out, but winter -- and the impact of El Niño -- is still several months away.

As a result, it’s difficult to make an accurate prediction, said Jeanine Jones, Interstate Resources Manager at the California Department of Water Resources.

A look at data from past El Niño winters won’t help much either, says Jay Lund of the University of California, Davis’ Center for Watershed Sciences.

He says that data for Northern California shows very little correlation between El Niño and heavy rainfall.

“You’ll see that there are some very low and very high El Niño events that have a lot of precipitation and very little precipitation,” he added, referencing the graph below, which measures El Niño strength and corresponding streamflow.

There’s no evidence of a pattern there, Lund says.

In other words, El Niño could mean a lot of rain, or no rain at all in Northern California.

Southern California sees a greater correlation between the weather pattern and rainfall thanks to geographic proximity to El Niño.

“The strongest correlation geographically is up at the Pacific Northwest, and down into Southern California and into the Mexico coast,” said Jeanine Jones. “Where we are in Northern California is in sort of a gray zone that can go either way.”

That gray zone is exacerbated by a ridge of high pressure, called the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, which buffers the Bay Area from stormy weather.

“If we have a strong high pressure ridge off the coast, we don’t get storms,” Jones said.

But even if the ridge doesn’t block El Niño, and fierce rainfall does arrive this winter, it still isn’t likely to end California’s drought.

“For some of the reservoirs, a half decent flood will fill them up pretty well,” said UC Davis’ Jay Lund. “Some of the larger reservoirs, it’ll take more than that.”

It could take decades or even a century to fill up some of those aquifers, Lund added.

While heavy rains would certainly help quench California’s thirst, the claim that a wet winter is a 50/50 proposition is true.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[CEO to Worker Pay Ratio Difficult to Calculate, Experts Say]]> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:42:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/generic+money+new.jpg

The Securities and Exchange Commission approved a rule this month that requires publicly traded companies to reveal the ratio between CEO pay and median employee pay.

But experts say that pay gap may not be easy to accurately calculate.
Executive compensation experts told NBC Bay Area that CEO take-home pay is hard to pinpoint thanks to the variation and performance-based nature of a company’s stock awards.
There can be large discrepancies between how much a CEO is paid in salary and how much a CEO actually earns each year, says Robert Daines, co-director of the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University.
“The CEO salary is usually a relatively small part of their take home pay,” he said.
After all, Elon Musk made $35,000 in 2014. Larry Ellison made one dollar.
“The vast majority of their pay is actually in stock options and the stock that they get,” Daines added.
Take a look at salary alone, and the CEO-to-worker pay gap narrows.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American CEO takes home about $180,000 per year, which calculates to roughly 5 times that of the average worker.
Factor in the stock options financial experts point to and that gap begins to widen.
A recent report from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, which looked at 350 available companies on the S&P 500, points to a CEO-worker pay ratio of 331 to 1.
A similar analysis by USA Today this year, shows that the gap rests at 219 to 1.
This variation in ratio data isn’t surprising, says Robert Pozen, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. That’s because even calculating pay based on stock awards can get messy, he said.
Say a CEO receives a salary of $1 million plus an additional $9 million in stock-related compensation, Pozen explains. It’s likely that those stock options are restricted shares that will vest over a period of time if certain targets are met, he added.
In other words, the shares will be rewarded based upon performance and are not guaranteed.
“So, the CEO may or may not get those restricted shares, but they are counted in the CEO’s pay on the year that they’re granted even if they may or may not vest,” Pozen said.
Perhaps even more difficult to calculate is the idea of value and worth to a company when it comes to CEO pay, said Robert Daines.
“I think the question of how much CEOs make is a really difficult one, and I don’t think academics have found a way to answer how much they should get paid,” said Stanford’s Robert Daines. “I don’t think there’s any good way to judge that.”
Take, for instance, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman, the highest paid CEO in Silicon Valley according to data from the San Jose Mercury News.
Woodman earned $800,000 last year, and his stock awards were almost $75 million. He founded a company, took it public, and reaped the benefits.
Number three on that list is Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. She didn’t found that company, though she was tasked with making it grow. Experts say that the amount of her total compensation—$42 million—is likely due to a need to woo her away from Google.
“You have to pay a lot to get good talent,” Daines said.
While value can be debated, the reality is the so-called CEO pay gap contains some inaccuracies.
Beyond that, history shows that pay gap disclosures don’t work.
“Disclosure hasn’t actually helped keep CEO pay down,” Stanford’s Robert Daines said. “Every time in the last twenty years there’s been a big problem, Congress has said let’s disclose more about CEO pay, but every time they disclose more, CEO pay increases.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fact Checking the GOP Debate]]> Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:55:47 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/WEB+6P+BROCK+RC+-+000030051.jpg

Republican presidential candidates faced off in a Fox News debate Thursday night.

The event set a ratings record and launched a number of claims as each of the 10 candidates selected for the primetime festivities fought to stand out in the crowd and appeal to the American people.

NBC Bay Area looked into a few of those messages to separate the facts from the fibs.

Claim No. 1

"If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money." – Donald Trump

Donald Trump has directly given money to only two of the nine candidates that shared the stage with him during Thursday's debate. According to research by the independent fact-checking site PolitiFact, which compiled 25 years of state and federal campaign finance contributions by the real-estate mogul, Trump made a $10,000 donation to Scott Walker in 2014, and gave $500 to Jeb Bush back in 2002.

Melinda Jackson, a political scientist at San Jose State University, says Trump’s claims are likely intended to play up stereotypes about deal-making in Washington, D.C.

"A lot of Americans do feel quite cynical about that and are resonating with that claim that politicians can be bought and sold," she said.

Claim No. 2

"To agree with the career politicians in both parties, who get in bed with the lobbyists and special interest — then I ain’t your guy!" – Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz was outspoken during the debate regarding his campaign’s separation from special interest groups.

However, Congressional contributions tracked by Open Secrets tell a different story. More than half a dozen of the senator’s "Top 20 Contributors" from 2011 to 2014 are financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, major law firms like Sullivan and Cromwell, and oil companies.

Claim No. 3

"How is she going to lecture me on student loans? I owed over $100,000 in student loans just 4 years ago." – Marco Rubio

The Florida senator struck a chord when he told the audience that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton should not play up class differences when criticizing Republicans.

And a look at Rubio’s 2011 financial disclosure form seems to shed some light on the truthfulness of his student loan claim. That year’s form lists a "liability" of between $100,000 and $250,000 described as a "student loan" owed to Sallie Mae. However, that liability does not appear on his form for 2012, meaning it’s likely Rubio paid his debt off that year.

Claim No. 4

"ISIS rides around in a billion dollar’s worth of U.S. humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop…we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes." – Rand Paul

A number of news reports from earlier this summer state that ISIS actually stole the military vehicle — sold by the United States to Iraqi security forces — when the group invaded the city of Mosul in June 2014. This information is attributed to a televised interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

It’s estimated that the 2,300 humvees stolen by ISIS are valued at about a billion dollars brand new.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Future of Iran Deal Rests in Hands of US Congress, Experts Say]]> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 18:13:19 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/topNews-AP_531111217442.jpg

Last week, after roughly two years of negotiations, the U.N. Security Council adopted a landmark agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The resolution, which experts hope will have the ripple effect of reshaping relations between Iran and the West, places restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and lifts sanctions placed on the country.

“It’s a very good agreement,” said Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of the California Commonwealth Club and former Department of Defense official. She aided nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and the former Soviet Countries in the 1990’s, and negotiated a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with North Korea.

“It’s probably the most thorough, well-thought-out nuclear non-proliferation agreement the United States has ever negotiated,” she said.

But whether or not the deal moves forward rests in the hands of the United States Congress, experts say.

The agreement binds together seven countries—China, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, the United States and Iran.

Approval by each of those countries is the next step.

“Each has their own different process for going through that,” Duffy said. Sanctions will not be lifted until the agreement goes into force, she added.

China and Russia have authoritative governments, so decisions by leaders of those nations are likely already made, experts say.

Great Britain, Germany and France have parliamentary governments, so decisions by those nations' prime ministers and presidents already reflect a majority party or coalition. Dissent there is unlikely, says Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Gloria Duffy adds that support is also likely from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

“Iran is a sufficiently unified government,” she said. “The agreement would not have been concluded the way that it was without the sense that it would be approved by all elements of the Iranian government.”

That leaves the United States.

Congress has 60 days to review the terms of the deal and approve, disapprove or take no action.

The only way to derail the agreement at this time is for Congress to disapprove, Schake said.

“I think there will be significant defections from the president’s own party in the Senate, and I think a lot of Republicans will vote against [the agreement] in both houses,” she added. “But I do not believe enough members of Congress will vote against it that could override a presidential veto.” 

Overriding a president veto would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. That means 13 Democrats would need to vote against the president and their own party.

“It’s a pretty high bar” says Duffy.

And an unlikely outcome, Schake added.

One major selling point for the agreement is the “snap back” provision, in which sanctions would be put back in place if Iran violates the agreement, Schake said.

However, the likelihood that those sanctions will “snap back” as quickly as the White House promises is low, she adds.

European nations have borne the heaviest political and economic burden absent Iranian oil, she said. It has made those countries more dependent on Russian oil and gas, a hard pill to swallow given Russia’s “behavior” in Ukraine, Schake added.

Then there’s the situation in Greece.

“With the third Greek bailout of almost a trillion dollars on the horizon, I think Europeans will be very hesitant to re-impose sanctions,” Schake added.

Russia’s economy is “groaning” under the sanctions put in place since the invasion of Ukraine, she said. “I almost can’t imagine circumstances in which Russia agrees to re-impose sanctions on Iran,” she added.

Once the deal is approved, Duffy says its success will hinge on Iran’s ability to “normalize” relationships with the countries that signed the agreement—especially the United States.

“In my opinion, the more that a fabric of a relationship between the U.S. and Iran develops as a result of this agreement, the more likely it will be that the Iranians will adhere to the agreement over time and that it will remain in force and be successful,” she said.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Recycled Water Safe for Drinking, Lab Results Show]]> Tue, 14 Jul 2015 09:44:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/RHEA+RECYCLED+WATER+PKG+-+000002131.jpg

Recycled water—the so-called “toilet to tap” variety—processed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District could soon make its way to the region’s drinking supply.

The thought of consuming water from drains, sinks and yes, even toilets, provokes a common response.

“Of course, the first thought right away is, ‘Ew, yuck!’” Dawn Ross, a San Jose resident told NBC Bay Area.

But water processed at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center in San Jose—the largest water purification center in Northern California—is indeed safe to drink, according to tests run by the Pleasonton-based Test America, an independent lab facility.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the lab to run drinking water tests on samples from the San Jose purification center.

One test for total organic carbon, or contaminants that can infiltrate drinking water and threaten public health, yielded an “ND” or a “no detection” result.

Tests for E. coli and fecal bacteria returned a “most probable number” of less than two, which indicates no presence of either contaminant.

In other words, the water is more than suitable for drinking.

That is, if you can get past your initial gut reaction.

“It’s cleaner than what’s coming out of your sinks right now,” said Pam John, North Water Treatment Operations Unit Manager for the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

On a recent tour of the Advanced Purification Center, which treats eight million gallons of water a day, John walked NBC Bay Area through a series of treatment processes that prepare the water to be what she says is “near-distilled” quality.

Up first is microfiltration, where very tiny fibers filter out viruses and bacteria from the water. That process is followed by reverse osmosis, which clears away salts and smaller viruses. The final step at the facility is ultraviolet light disinfection, which disinfects the water without using chemicals. The final product looks immaculate, and is totally drinkable, John says.

The water isn’t used for drinking quite yet, John said, but it is used for landscape irrigation, as well as in industrial processes.

For now, the treatment facility is focused on producing clean water and educating the public about it. The hope is to create transparency around the treatment process and reduce the “toilet to tap” stigma.

“We make no bones about this water. It is really water from a sewer,” she said. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be made safe for drinking, she added.

Sewer water from the region is initially treated at the San Jose Regional Wastewater facility, which treats 110 million gallons of wastewater each day.

Much of that recycled water is returned to the San Francisco Bay.

The rest is sent to the Advanced Water Purification Center.

In total, the water that could end up in drinking cups throughout the region goes through two stages of treatment at the Regional Wastewater Facility and three stages at the Advanced Purification Center.

The plan is to expand the Advanced Purification Center to process up to 40 million gallons of water per day and eventually introduce that recycled water to taps for public consumption, John said.

Southern California areas like Orange County have been doing this for many years and is the gold standard in the state for the process, she added.

With the current water supply dwindling, John stressed that implementation of this type of innovation could have a major impact.

“Being in this unprecedented fourth year of drought, these types of supplies, which we think of as being drought-proof supplies—drought-proof, reliable, and local—these types of supplies are invaluable,” she said.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[911 Malfunctions in Napa County: Sheriff]]> Mon, 13 Jul 2015 05:47:38 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/MedStar_Dispatch.jpg

Napa County’s 911 system went down on Sunday for residents in the Lake Berryessa area.

The sheriff sent out an alert for anyone with the phone prefix of 966 to call a different number if they need emergency assistance. To report emergencies, call (707) 253-0911.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Studies Show Immigration Doesn't Cause Rise in Crime]]> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/The-Donald-Trump-2-July-2015.jpg

Donald Trump sparked controversy recently with remarks that linked undocumented immigrants to a rise in violent crime in the United States.

“They’re bringing drugs,” the real estate big-wig told a crowd last month. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

The claims left pro-immigrant groups outraged, jumping to defend immigrant communities across the country.

“There are great businesses. There are hardworking people,” said Angela Franco of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Making such a generalized comment, really, I don’t think it’s respectful.”

And research shows that Trump’s comments just aren’t true.

NBC Bay Area looked at over a dozen studies and nearly 30 years in U.S. Census Report data. The results?

A number of studies show that a rise in immigration rates actually corresponds to a decrease in violent crime, while the majority of academic research on this topic finds no correlation between immigration patterns and increased violent crime rates.

A study by The Pew Research Center from 2013 concluded that first generation immigrants have much lower crime rates than native-born citizens, and another recent study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab further emphasized Trump’s falsehoods.

The study’s author, Aaron Chalfin, found that a 1 percentage point rise in immigration led to a 13 percent drop in rape and two percent drop in murder.

The study also found a 19 percent rise in aggravated assault, but Chalfin stressed that his overall conclusions match the majority of academic research on this topic.

“I think the best interpretation of my paper and others in literature is that there’s no robust evidence of an effect [of immigration on crime]” he said. “When we think about what’s driving crime, we definitely don’t think of immigration on our list. That’s pretty well settled,” he added.

Robert Weisberg, Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, agrees. Immigration rates in the U.S. were on the rise starting in the early 1990’s, he said, and that pattern actually corresponded with a decrease in crime.

“That period matched perfectly with the most dramatic crime reduction in modern American history,” Weisberg said. “That’s a crude measure, but it does tell you that an increase in immigration isn’t associated with an increase in crime, generally,” he added.

But years of academic research haven’t forced Trump to change his tune.

He continued to draw a connection between immigrants and crime following the tragic death of Kate Steinle, a Pleasanton woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco earlier this month.

The police termed the incident a random shooting linked to an undocumented immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.

"We're talking about crime,” Trump told reporters outside a charity golf event last week. “You saw what happened with the young lady in San Francisco. It's a disgrace."

The controversial remarks by the presidential hopeful have left many Republicans on the local and national scale defending the party’s views on immigration.

“I think he should have toned it back,” said Howard Epstein, former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. “You know, there’s a problem along our border. We need to seal our border. I don’t have any problems with Mr. Trump saying that, but it’s the way he said it that will turn people against the party.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' Buster Posey Named All-Star Starter]]> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 15:54:22 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/173*120/477813636_594_screen.jpg

The fans' votes are in and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey has been elected the starting catcher for the National League in the 2015 MLB All-Star Game.

Posey, 28, will be playing in his third All-Star Game after participating in baseball's Midsummer Classic in both 2012 and 2013.

Going into Sunday night's game, Posey is hitting .304/.375/.502 with 14 home runs. He's also produced 86 hits, 14 doubles, 57 RBI and 44 runs scored in 78 games played.

In comparison to his Giants teammates, Posey is fourth in batting average, third in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in home runs, second in hits, fourth in doubles, first in RBI, and first in runs scored.

Posey has been superior offensively to nearly all other catchers in all of baseball. Among catchers, he leads in batting average, is second in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, first in home runs, first in hits, third in doubles, first in RBI, and second in runs scored.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Francisco Celebrates 45th Annual Pride Parade]]> Sun, 28 Jun 2015 11:45:51 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/June2015Pride.jpg

San Francisco's 45th annual Pride weekend is in full swing.

An estimated 2 million people are expected to descend upon the city to partake in the weekend-long celebration.

This year’s festivities — themed "Equality Without Exception" — are especially significant seeing as they come one day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

On Saturday, revelers flocked to the Twin Peaks’ north hill, which faces the Castro district and downtown San Francisco, to the site of an oversized pink triangle, a memorial comprising dozens of pieces of pink canvas.

The pink triangle was historically used in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexual prisoners. It has since evolved into a symbol of gay pride.

The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band performed live and officials, including Mayor Ed Lee, assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu, San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros and supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, attended.

The Pride Parade is slated to begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Market and Beale streets. It will wind down at Market and 8th streets.

Photo Credit: Riya Bhattacharjee
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<![CDATA[Savagely Beaten Pit Bull Terrier Mix, Maximilian, Dies]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 17:36:40 -0800 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[Brother of Boston Terror Suspect Questions Police Tactics]]> Wed, 03 Jun 2015 16:32:33 -0800 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP584216773809.jpg

Questions are being raised after a man with ties to the Bay Area was shot and killed by police in Boston on Tuesday.

Officials say the suspect was being followed by the Joint Terrorism Task Force and was wielding a military-style knife at officers.

Officials told NBC News the officer and agent had been investigating whether the man, identified as Usaama Rahim, had become radicalized by ISIS-inspired social media messages.

The man’s brother, Ibrahim Rahim, who is from Oakland, is asking for prayers and questioning police tactics.

The FBI and Boston police say they foiled a suspected terrorist plot to kill police officers, but some, including Ibrahim Rahim, think the cops pulled the trigger too soon.

Rahim is considered a moderate and spoke out publically against the Tsarnayev brothers role in the Boston marathon bombing.

For more information, follow NECN's coverage.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' Miller Pleads Not Guilty to Misdemeanor Vandalism]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 17:34:00 -0800 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 16:22:47 -0800 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 22:42:41 -0800 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 17:48:36 -0800 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 06:47:00 -0800 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.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Peet's Coffee Makes Golden State Warriors Blend]]> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:39:19 -0800 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 06:45:04 -0800 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 09:14:13 -0800 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 06:04:56 -0800 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 05:59:22 -0800 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 22:51:04 -0800 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 18:18:05 -0800 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 08:54:58 -0800 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 06:37:59 -0800 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]]>