<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Top News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Fri, 24 Oct 2014 01:51:19 -0700 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 01:51:19 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Special Report: Investing with the Stars]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:48:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2014-10-01-jared-leto.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott's treats are on twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[Minnie Driver's Son Picked Out One Crazy Halloween Costume]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 04:36:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/457177114.jpg Minnie Driver's talks to Seth Meyer's about her 6-year-old son's "eccentric" choices in Halloween costumes. ]]> <![CDATA[Plane Briefly Quarantined After Ebola Scare]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:25:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/10-10-14_ebola-las-vegas-plane.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

That's when they got the care package.

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

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

WATCH MORE BAY AREA PROUD STORIES

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

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

And do quite well, it turns out.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

But some ... not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman



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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott kicks off on Twitter: @scottbudman



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Before You Go...

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

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

Get Enough Sleep — Dust Off That Alarm Clock

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

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

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

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

Time Management is Key

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

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

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

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

Get Involved, Have an Open Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are more tips from college graduates around the country: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Before the New Standards:

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

After the New Standards:

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

NBC Bay Area has not reviewed the book in question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

"There was no stopping this one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

WATCH MORE BAY AREA PROUD STORIES

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dancers are looking forward to moving on from this incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shutdown dates:

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if Moses had Facebook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

EPA officials confirm that they are studying that theory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forty-nine panels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twittersphere: Reaction to Bitcoin Founder Revelation

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

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

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

Isn't that what games are supposed to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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

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

As in, taking you there someday.

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

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

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

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

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

Get ready for takeoff.

Scott, on earth, is on Twitter: @scottbudman



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: Instagram via nate_scimio]]>
<![CDATA["Scarface" to SF State: One Teacher's Remarkable Journey]]> Fri, 18 Oct 2013 06:01:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/michael+santos+2+copy.jpg

From "Scarface" to Socrates to San Francisco State University,  Michael Santos has been through a lifetime - or rather, half a lifetime - of change. 

The 49-year-old Petaluma ex-con spent 26 years - more than half his life - in roughly 20 prisons stemming from a 1980's-era drug conviction, where he was labeled a cocaine kingpin, shipping drugs from Miami back to his upscale, suburban hometown in North Seattle.
Though he was sentenced to 45 years in prison, Santos was released to a halfway house in San Francisco in August 2012 for good behavior - he earned two degrees in prison and wrote seven books. And this August, he was released for good.
Last month, he began teaching at SF State. His class is called "The Architecture of Incarceration."
"I'm having a wonderful opportunity to influence the perspectives of young people," Santos said. "I've been giving them a perspective that differs from the classes that they took earlier and I'm thrilled to have this privilege. It's truly an amazing feeling, because academia played such an enormous influence on my life during the 26 years that I served."
Teaching follows a long journey, where a teenage Santos began running with a "fast crowd," people his parents wouldn't have been proud of. He saw the movie "Scarface" back then, and wanted to follow in the footsteps of Al Pacino's gangster character, "Tony Montana."
"I orchestrated a scheme to supply," he said. "I was driven by greed. I felt entitled, like nothing was going to happen to me."
But something did happen to him.
He was convicted on drug trafficking charges. Sometime before getting sentenced, Santos picked up a book written by Greek philosopher Socrates, who was also sent to prison and sentenced to death for failing to acknowledge the "proper" gods and for teaching new philosophies. As the story goes, Socrates had the chance to escape - but he didn't.
That struck Santos – even though their paths were different and although Santos acknowledged he grew up a privileged kid in Seattle who made "every bad decision you could make." And at that moment, Santos decided to "own" his mistakes, and make meaning of his long years ahead of him in prison.
"I had to find a way to reconcile what I had done," he said.
He wrote more than half a dozen books. He earned bachelors and masters degrees. He even got married to a woman he had known since he was 11 years old and who reconnected with him while trying to track down former classmates for a 20th high school reunion. Carole Santos said she doesn't think it's strange at all that she married a prisoner - she knows her husband's true soul.
She first wrote to him saying what he did "wasn't very cool," but their pen pal relationship grew and evolved and now, she's by his side, loving that he is on the outside as her daily partner.
"I love the way he loves me," she said.
While released to a halfway house last year, Santos was speaking at the University of California at Berkeley, sharing his life story and lessons learned. He has his own website, prison consulting business and a foundation dedicated to offer the "Straight-A Guide Re-Entry Program." He made headlines. People noticed him, and were moved by his story, which he also told at Stanford Law School and the University of San Francisco Law School. Professor Jeffrey Snipes was one of those people. Snipes was so moved, he helped land Santos a job in the criminal justice department at San Francisco State.
Now, Santos is a teacher, educating students on his life as a prisoner. He's hoping they'll avoid the same mistakes he did, and create a better criminal justice system that better serves those inside.
"My hope is to play a role in dismantling the practice of mass incarceration," he said, "which I consider a disgrace to our country and the greatest social injustice of our time."

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<![CDATA[Samsung Takes On Apple's New "Spaceship"]]> Thu, 17 Oct 2013 05:27:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/10-16-2013-samsung-demolition.jpg

Just hours after Apple's new "Spaceship" was approved, Samsung was demolishing a building, throwing down the latest high tech gauntlet.

Just six miles from where Apple - fresh from getting Cupertino's blessing - will build its newest Silicon Valley headquarters, Samsung will put up two new buildings of its own. The research facility will be in Mountain View (I checked ... they're six miles away), a stone's throw away from the iPhone maker.

MORE: Cupertino Approves Plan for Apple's "Spaceship" Campus

What this means, is more jobs in Silicon Valley, more innovation in Silicon Valley, and yes, more traffic in Silicon Valley. Both Apple and Samsung say they'll work with the cities to try and fix any oncoming traffic issues. It's good news, though - both for consumers, and for the local economy: More products to choose from, and more money being pumped into local businesses, restaurants, etc.

Apple is staying put, and building; Samsung moving resources from South Korea, and building.

Both, aiming to be your mobile provider - both, hiring locally.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[What's Shutting Down? Check Twitter]]> Mon, 30 Sep 2013 15:44:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/closed-shutterstock_1322614131.jpg

Just in time, a Twitter account to tell us what's shutting down as the government gets ready to close its doors.

The account, fittingly called @WhatIsShutDown, points out that:

"The military's 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed," and:

"The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey would be halted."

It's a sobering read, but also, in this age of insant social media, a good idea. A way to get the message out quickly, and in a way that will be read a lot. Almost instantly, the Twitter account has 458 followers.

We expect that will grow. A lot.

Oh, and it's most recent message, as this is written:

"Shutting down the government doesn't have to happen."

Well said.

Scott is also on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[$328: Average Monthly Health Insurance Cost Under the Affordable Care Act]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 01:47:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/map+illustration.jpg

New data on health care premium costs released by the Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday has been analyzed and scrutinized by experts across the nation. The data shows that Americans will pay an average of $328 a month for a middle tier health plan, while other analysis shows that health costs may go up for younger Americans under the Affordable Care Act. 

Obamacare's average monthly cost across US: $328 (Reuters)

  • Recent data shows that Americans will pay an average monthly premium of $328 for mid-tier or "silver plan" health insurance. The online exchanges under the Affordable Care Act open next week on Oct. 1.
  • Most Americans will qualify for government subsidies to lower that price.
  • The figure is the broadest national estimate for the cost of coverage based on data for approved insurance plans in 48 states.
  • The Obama administration estimates and is counting on 7 million Americans to sign up for health insurance through the new exchanges – including 2.7 million younger and healthier consumers needed to offset the costs of sicklier customers.
  • Insurance rates were significantly higher in states with fewer insurance companies offering plans under the ACA. Prices will vary across the nation.

Double Down: Obamacare Will Increase Avg. Individual-Market Insurance Premiums By 99% For Men, 62% For Women (Forbes)

  • Based on a Manhattan Institute analysis of data released by the Department of Health and Human Services, insurance rates for younger men will increase by an average of 97 to 99 percent, while they will increase by an average of 55 to 62 percent for younger women.
  • Worst of all states, North Carolina will see individual market rates triple for women and quadruple for men.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google at 15: More Growth Ahead]]> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 18:49:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Google-Doodle-15th-Anniversary.jpg

It's been 15 years since Google hit the scene, and unlike some tech veterans, the search engine giant is still a growing and vibrant part of the Silicon Valley scene.

So are the people who started Google. Larry and Sergey, obviously, are still at the company. Marissa Mayer is famously running Yahoo! And, while you may not know the name Georges Harik, you doubtlessly use products he had a hand in creating.

MORE: Google Celebrates 15th Birthday With New Doodle

Georges left SGI to become Google's seventh employee. He helped develop ads on search, GMail, and convinced the founders to buy Android. So ... pretty much everything he touched turned to gold, along with his stock options.

Laurels, it should be said, that Georges has refused to sit on. We caught up with him at imo, a communications platform Georges is helping to grow and develop. He says he, like so many other Googlers who are still active in tech, "are motivated by making a difference." He says his thrill, to this day, is "to take something new, and put it into the world."

In a nice touch, Georges was ordering lunch for his startup from Calafia, a Bay Area restaurant started by Charlie Ayers, who gained fame as Google's first chef.

A little synchronicity, from someone who worked hard to connect people.

 And what better way to celebrate than with one of the company's popular Google Doodles?

Friday's doodle featured a popular birthday game where the user controls the second letter "g" in Google's name to hit a piñata and get points.

The anniversary also heralded another improvement from Google: The search engine giant has updated the algorithm it uses for searches, calling it "Hummingbird." The new algorithm allows Google to quickly analyze full questions and to identify and rank the answers to those questions with search results. 

Google is now the world's number-one search engine with its own name eponymous with searching something on the Internet. Originally dubbed BackRub, the company changed its name to Google, derived from a misspelling of the word googol, which refers to the number one followed by one hundred zeroes.

Vishal Persaud contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Solazyme Soars on Giant Algae Deal]]> Wed, 25 Sep 2013 09:24:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/8-7-2013-algae-cosmetics.jpg

Solazyme, the Silicon Valley company that makes oils out of algae, just notched a big deal with consumer giant Unilever. Some 3 million gallons of algae-fueled renewable oil will be delivered to the consumer company, the latest success from Solazyme.

Investors applauded the news, sending Solazyme shares (SZYM) up by 10 percent.

Solazyme has seen its algae-derived products spread, first to auto fuel, then jet fuel, and lately, into the cosmetic field. With this latest deal, Solazyme will see its fuel used to produce oils and sugars by Unilever, which is well-known for its consumer products.

MORE:  Yes, Algae Can Make You Beautiful

The deal is also the first to see oils sold from Solazyme's renewable oil facility in Moemo, Brazil.

Jonathan Wolfson, Solazyme CEO, says the deal "greatly influenced our ability to build and expand our relationship with Unilever as we take this next step in commercializing the world's first tailored renewable oil production platform."

Look for some algae on a cosmetic shelf near you soon.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA[GoldBely Eats Up $3 Million Funding Round]]> Tue, 17 Sep 2013 19:06:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/goldbely.jpg

Your favorite food just got closer.

GoldBely, a Bay Area startup that tracks down and delivers your favorite foods (the pastrami sandwich from that Manhattan Deli? The pie from Michigan?), has been growing, and will grow even larger, thanks to a tasty $3 million round of funding.

The money, coming largely from Intel Capital (maybe they have a favorite chip...), makes GoldBely not only the latest cool company to snag funding, but the latest post-incubator success story. The company launched at Y Combinator, and counts that group among its funders.

We hung out with GoldBely CEO and Co-Founder Joe Ariel shortly after its launch. With lots of regional food on the table, Ariel explained how his company will satisfy your craving, with the help of software and shipping. It's the kind of company you're always glad to see and get (and eat), which is something they're counting on to boost sales, via word of mouth.

Mouths, eager to bite into that favorite food.

Scott is ready to taste test on Twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[Most Predict Bleak Times for Raiders in 2013]]> Thu, 05 Sep 2013 08:07:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/dallyynn.jpg

No one is predicting good things for the Oakland Raiders in 2013.

The team that went 4-12 last season, then had a major roster makeover, is being projected not only as the worst team in the AFC West, but among the worst in the NFL.

One writer in the Washington Times recently wrote that Oakland has the potential to be one of the worst teams in NFL history.

“The 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16, and these Raiders have the ability to match them,” he wrote.

Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports didn’t go that far, writing that he believes the Raiders will win just two games and “test Raider Nation.”

But surprises (miracles?) sometimes happen. Some times, bad teams make good strides.

With the season kickoff Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis, here are five things that need to happen for the Raiders to make strides in their rebuilding effort:

Quarterback: Terrelle Pryor needs to show he’s an NFL-caliber player. Though raw and often inaccurate in his passing, the former Ohio State star needs to learn under fire, starting Sunday against the Colts, and become a play-maker. Should Pryor develop this season, then the Raiders next April can get a play-maker at another position, and not have to use their No. 1 pick on a QB. And if Pryor makes huge strides this season, he’ll raise the games of other players, too.

Offensive line: Right now, the injury to left tackle Jared Veldheer looks devastating. The Raiders struggled in pass protection this summer, and the line is expected to struggle again when the season opens. But if second-round pick Menelik Watson can prove to be a solid player in Veldheer’s spot (though he tweaked a knee in practice this week), he can be an anchor for the development of the rest of the line. Under the guidance of new coach Tony Sparano, the line needs to make strides as the season goes on.

Running back: Darren McFadden needs to stay healthy. Any offense with a healthy McFadden can be dangerous. Without him, the Raiders are doomed.

The front seven: This remade group of free agents and a rookie (Sio Moore) needs to stop the run and get to the passer. Moore showed in the preseason he could be a difference-maker as a speed pass rusher. If this group plays better than last season, the secondary (also remade) will have a better chance than it did in 2012, when it was regularly shredded by opposing QBs.

Head coach: Dennis Allen needs to grow on the job, put the right players in the right positions, make smart game decisions and keep this team playing hard and positive, even if it gets off to a rough start. He brought in a new coordinator and line coach to improve the offense, and Greg Olson and Sparano will have to prove they were the right moves. Allen needs to prove in 2013 that he’s the guy to take this team into the future.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chobani Pulls "Swelling" Yogurt Cups Off Shelves]]> Thu, 05 Sep 2013 06:02:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/chobani.jpg

If your cup of Chobani Greek yogurt is suspiciously swollen, a mold commonly found in dairy may be to blame.

Chobani announced Tuesday that it is pulling some of its Greek yogurt from supermarket shelves after customers complained of “swelling or bloating” in cups.

Chobani said in message on its Facebook page that it has investigated the problem and found that a type of mold frequently found in dairy may be to blame.

The company, which is based in New Berlin, N.Y., said that the affected yogurt was made at its Idaho facility and accounts for only 5 percent of its total production.

It did not say how many of its cups or what varieties were affected.

On Tuesday the company was responding to customers about their yogurt cups on Twitter. One person said her was "unnervingly fizzy," another said the cups were like "yogurt soup" and another said it tasted like "wine."

“We've been diligently working with our retail partners and have voluntarily and proactively removed and replaced the majority of potentially affected cups with the code 16-012, expiration dates
9/11/2013 - 10/7/ 2013 to ensure our fans are met with only the best experience when enjoying our products,” Chobani said.

Customers with the affected code dates should contact Chobani customer service team at care@chobani.com to get replacement products, the company said.
 



Photo Credit: PR NEWSWIRE]]>
<![CDATA[Are We "Laboring" Too Hard?]]> Mon, 02 Sep 2013 19:35:17 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-178325240_10.jpg

On this Labor Day, are we laboring too much?

A new set of statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over the last 30 years, our productivity as American workers has gone up 80 percent. Our wages, though, have gone up by a much smaller ten percent.

Given what food, college, houses, etc. cost these days, it's no wonder Bay Area unions are unhappy about this.

"We need to get the workers wages they need," says Gary Jimenez of SEIU Local 1021. He's echoed by Cheryl Brown of AFSCME 57: "In every sector we see a move towards temp workers. Less ability to attain a middle class quality of life."

Temp workers, and outsourcing. Two things brought up a lot by the union leaders today. Two reasons, perhaps, why our production is up higher than our wage growth.

Scott is on Twitter: @scottbudman

 

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Photo Credit: DP]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Donates Laptops To Bay Area School]]> Thu, 22 Aug 2013 18:59:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/8-22-2013-facebook-laptops.jpg

Dozens of Bay Area 8th graders will be able to update their Facebook pages tonight by logging onto their brand new MacBook laptop computers.

Courtesy of Facebook.

The Menlo Park social networking giant didn't have to look far when it decided to donate dozens of laptops - Cesar Chavez Academy is in nearby East Palo Alto. At an assembly Thursday afternoon, Facebook employees, along with local educators and Representative Jackie Speier, passed out the laptops to the very happy students.

"I wanna use it for high school and college," said 8th grader Evelyn Romero, "for the work that I really need to do."

With STEM education talked about so frequently in the Valley, the donation is really a way to begin to bridge the digital divide. Most schools have laptops; it's how things get done these days. As Facebook CIO Tim Campos says, "Could Mark Zuckerberg create Facebook if he didn't have a computer?"

No. He went to a school that had them. Now, so does Evelyn Romero.

Scott logs on to Twitter @scottbudman



Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA[Raiders Know Reece Is a Playmaker]]> Thu, 19 Sep 2013 08:27:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/178*120/mahcel.jpg

When Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie met with Bay Area reporters Wednesday, he talked about a variety of topics, including the growth of quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

But somewhat overlooked in his remarks was the comment he made about fullback Marcel Reece.

Reece, who won the team’s starting fullback job in 2010, has been a terrific player for the Raiders. He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl, filled in as a tailback, is a terrific blocker and receiver and has done everything asked of him since joining the team in 2008 as an undrafted free agent.

The Raiders appreciate Reece so much, they announced last week that they’ve signed Reece to a three-year contract extension. Obviously, he’s a big part of their plans.

But through two games in 2013, Reece is nearly invisible. He’s carried the ball just twice and has only one reception.

Yet when he gets his hands on the ball, he makes things happen. His two carries have gone for 15 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run. His catch was for 9 yards.

So, on a team that needs playmakers, why isn’t Reece a bigger part of the offense?

That’s what McKenzie was asked Wednesday.

“We’re trying,” McKenzie said. “We know who our play-makers are.”

So, perhaps this is the week the Raiders finally start incorporating Reece into the offense, when Oakland travels to Denver for a Monday night game against the Broncos. They’ll certainly need his explosiveness against a team that odds-makers have made 14½-point favorites.

The former college wide receiver has proven to be one of the best receivers out of the backfield in the NFL. Since 2009, he’s averaged 10.8 yards per catch, best among all running backs. And last year, while filling in for an injured Darren McFadden at tailback, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

With the Broncos’ defense focused on stopping Pryor and McFadden Monday night, Reece could be a very dangerous third option. As one writer noted this week, Reece is Oakland’s “secret weapon,” who often is used to create mismatches against linebackers on passing plays.

Though Reece hasn’t yet gotten the ball often this season, it’s obvious that sooner or later, he’ll start making some big plays. It’s what he’s done his previous three seasons as a starter, and what he’s hoping for over the long term of his contract extension. He didn’t want to go anywhere else.

“It’s a big step, another big step to being a Raider for life,” he told ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez last week after signing his extension. “Just looking forward to the next few years of continuing to be part of Raider Nation.”

And that nation is looking forward to seeing No. 45 with the ball in his hands more often.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>