<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Top Stories]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.comen-usSun, 22 Oct 2017 22:02:14 -0700Sun, 22 Oct 2017 22:02:14 -0700NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[391-Acre Bear Fire Now 79 Percent Contained]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 11:43:40 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/BearFireBurnScar.JPG

The 391-acre Bear Fire that has been burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains for nearly one week is now 79 percent contained, Cal Fire announced Sunday afternoon.

"We're somewhat scaling down now that the fire is calming down," Cal Fire Division Chief Angela Bernheisel said on Saturday. "We want to put this thing to bed."

Evacuation orders are still in effect for Bear Creek Canyon Road, Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, and their tributary streets in the fire area, but those orders will be lifted at 8 a.m. on Monday, according to Cal Fire.

Road closures remain in place for Deer Creek Road, Bear Creek Canyon Road, Hartman Creek Road, Dons Lane and Rons Lane.

The fire started late Monday and has consumed four structures. It has also resulted in nine injuries as firefighters not only battle the flames, but also work against the rugged and steep terrain.

Five firefighters, including an inmate firefighter, all suffered minor injuries  while working the fire lines on Tuesday, according to Cal Fire. Two more firefighters on Wednesday were transported to hospitals, one after suffering second-degree burns to his hands and the other also suffering from unspecified burn injuries, fire officials said. 

One of those hurt was Andy Goodson from the Santa Clara unit. He fell 50 feet while on the front lines of the fire. As of Friday, he is hospitalized but expected to be OK, according to Cal Fire. 

An investigation into what sparked the blaze is still in the works.

Towering flames could be seen ripping through dense vegetation and devouring trees right after the fire started before they were eventually suppressed by fire crews on the ground and in the air.

The Zayante Fire Station, which is located at 7700 E. Zayante St. in Felton, was designated as an evacuation center for those impacted by the fire. Another evacuation center was opened at Lakeside Elementary School — 19620 Black Road — in Los Gatos.

Those displaced by the fire can call 1-866-272-2237 for additional accommodations.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Kidnapped by Taliban-Linked Group Shares Details]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 15:55:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Taliban-hostages-kids.jpg

The American woman who was kidnapped by Taliban-connected militants shared with NBC News on Sunday details about the nearly five years she spent in captivity, less than two weeks after she and her family were rescued.

Caitlan Boyle, who was known as Caitlan Coleman prior to her marriage to Canadian Joshua Boyle, described how she educated her three children while imprisoned by Taliban-linked fighters.

"One part of our imprisonment that we can take pride in was our schooling of the boys. We had no educational supplies, but we did as much as we could in the circumstances," Boyle wrote. "We were both homeschooled ourselves growing up, and wanted to give our children the same attention and homeschooling opportunities we had."

Boyle and her husband were taken by the Haqqani network, an insurgent guerilla group connected to the Taliban, nearly five years ago while the couple were backpacking through Afghanistan. All three of her children were born in captivity.

Photo Credit: Taliban Media via AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Women of the Senate Share Their #MeToo Stories of Harassment]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 15:30:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/4DemSens.jpg

The Harvey Weinstein story reminded us of the ugliness, the humiliation and perhaps most importantly, the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. In response, women took to social media and began telling their stories using the hashtag #MeToo, illustrating how common this kind of behavior can be.

Now even some of the most powerful women in government are saying #MeToo.

"Meet the Press" asked every female member of the Senate — all 21 — if they would share stories they might have of sexual harassment. Four senators, all Democrats, said yes and told us of experiences from early in their careers.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., share their stories.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Sideshow Activity in SJ Leads to Citations, Damaged Cop Car]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 16:47:02 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/WebSJSideshow_513304.JPEG

Four cars were impounded, seven citations were handed out and a police car was damaged following sideshow activity in San Jose early Sunday, according to police.

Officers first responded to a call around 1:15 a.m. about a sideshow occurring in the area of Oakland Road and Fox Lane, according to police. Those partaking in the stunts were spinning out, doing "donuts" and blocking lanes of traffic.

Another officer responding to the scene came across the reckless drivers in the area of Old Bayshore Highway and the Interstate 880 overpass, according to police. All lanes of the roadway were either blocked by cars partaking in the stunts or people watching.

As the officer tried to drive through the area, their rear window was smashed and people kicked the squad car, according to police. The officer was not injured.

Additional officers from the police department, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol eventually arrived to detain some racers and dish out citations in the area of Ridder Park Drive and Brokaw Road, police said.

Further information was not available.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Summer-Like Heat to Return to the Bay Area]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 13:00:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Sun_Heat_Generic_Hot_car.jpg

It may be the middle of October, but summer-like heat will be making a comeback across the Bay Area this week.

The National Weather Service predicts that daytime high temperatures across the region could be 15 to 20 degrees above seasonal averages on Monday and Tuesday.

San Francisco is expected to creep just above the low-80s by Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. Concord is forecasted to top out just below 90 degrees come Tuesday. Santa Cruz — typically a haven for those who despise the heat — could soar to the low-90s by the second day of the work week.

The Bay Area warming trend, which could break records in some spots, does include low humidity levels, which ratchets up fire danger.

Those hoping for fall-like temperatures will likely have to wait until next weekend.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[After String of Close Losses, 49ers Get Blown Out]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 16:20:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/sacknfumblecj.jpg

This time, it wasn’t close. This time, the 49ers didn’t have a chance.

After losing five straight games by no more than three points, San Francisco was overwhelmed by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, 40-10, to fall to 0-7 this season.

The 49ers gave away three fumbles — two by rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard in his first pro start — and had no answer for a Dallas offense that was balanced and lethal. Dak Prescott threw for three touchdowns for the Cowboys while running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 147 yards and three scores.

From the outset, the 49ers made a mistake that allowed the Cowboys to get rolling. Rookie Trent Jones fumbled while returning a punt after Dallas’ first possession, giving the Cowboys the ball on the San Francisco 20-yard line. Three plays later, Elliott went in from a yard out to give Dallas a 7-0 lead.

The Cowboys came right back on their next possession to go up 14-0 on Elliott’s 25-yard TD run.

The Niners had a chance to get back into the game just before halftime, trailing 20-3, after driving to the Dallas 5, but Beathard was sacked and stripped of the ball. Beathard lost a second fumble while being sacked at the end of the third quarter, leading to another Dallas touchdown to start the fourth quarter.

By that point, however, the Cowboys had a 40-3 lead and the victory in the bank.

The 49ers came back to score on Beathard’s 4-yard run later in the period with the outcome already determined.

It was a disappointing day for the 49ers, who honored former standout wide receiver Dwight Clark at halftime at Levi’s Stadium.

It was the third straight game of 30 or more points for the Cowboys, who dominated the 49ers defense Sunday, especially on the ground. They averaged 6.2 yards per carry, gaining 265 yards rushing on 43 attempts while amassing 501 total yards in the game.

In his first start, Beathard had a tough day, fumbling twice and being sacked five times. He completed 22-of-38 passes for 235 yards.

The 49ers will try again to get their first win of 2017 at Philadelphia next Sunday against the Eagles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cowboys Hand 49ers Worst Loss in History of Levi's Stadium]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 16:14:55 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/49ersCowboysCMS.JPG

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ streak of consecutive close losses came to an end on Sunday.

No, the 49ers did not pick up their first victory of the season. Rather, the Dallas Cowboys blew out the hapless 49ers on Dwight Clark Day at Levi’s Stadium.

After their NFL-record streak of five straight defeats by three points or fewer, the 49ers were dealt an embarrassing 40-10 loss to drop their record under first-year coach Kyle Shanahan to 0-7.

It was the worst loss in the four-season history of Levi’s Stadium. The previous-worst defeat for the 49ers since the move from Candlestick Park was a 41-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints last season. The 49ers have lost 10 consecutive home games over the past two seasons.

The 49ers and Cleveland Browns, also 0-7, are the only winless teams remaining in the league.

The poor showing – and inability to slow down Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott – put a damper on a festive day for the 49ers, as Clark was recognized for his contributions to the dynasty of the 1980s.

Clark, whose leaping 6-yard touchdown catch in the NFC Championship game against the Cowboys, catapulted the 49ers to their first Super Bowl. Now 60, Clark is battling ALS. He delivered remarks to his former teammates and the crowd during a halftime ceremony.

But when the second half opened, Elliott had a 72-yard touchdown reception from Dak Prescott to give Dallas a 27-3 lead. Elliott had a big day against the 49ers, as he also rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 26 rushing attempts.

The Cowboys did not need much of an opening, but they took advantage of some critical 49ers miscues in the first quarter.

After the 49ers’ defense forced a three-and-out on the opening drive with DeForest Buckner swatting down two passes at the line of scrimmage, rookie Trent Taylor gave it right back when he fumbled a punt.

The Cowboys took over and drove 20 yards on three plays with Elliott scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run.

On Dallas’ next possession, 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson surrendered 17 yards on a pass-interference penalty. Then, Robinson’s illegal contract penalty nullified a 15-yard loss for intentional grounding.

Elliott, again, wasted little time as he scored on a 25-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 14-0 lead with 7:57 remaining in the first quarter.


Rookie C.J. Beathard was beat up in his first NFL start after taking over for struggling veteran Brian Hoyer last week.

Beathard, a third-round draft pick from Iowa, completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Beathard also rushed five times for 30 yards and touchdown.

But Beathard was under constant harassment, as he was also sacked five times for minus-48 yards and lost two fumbles.


Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster started as he made his first appearance since the opening game of the season, when he sustained a high right ankle sprain. But Foster exited in the third quarter with a ribs injury to his right side.

Foster recorded five tackles, including one for a loss, in his most extensive playing time of the season.

Right tackle Trent Brown left the game in the second half and was diagnosed with a concussion. Brown was pass through the NFL’s concussion protocol in order to be cleared for the 49ers’ game next Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles.


--Fullback Kyle Juszczyk (back) and pass-rusher Aaron Lynch (calf) were among the 49ers’ seven inactive players.

--Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who came into the game with a league-leading 8.5 sacks, moved to the other side of the line and beat left tackle Joe Staley for a sack-strip to thwart a 49ers scoring chance late in the first half.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Police Investigate Fremont's First Homicide of 2017]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 14:15:30 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ExtendedStayFremont.JPG

Fremont's first homicide investigation of the year has been launched after a man who was found to be suffering from a gunshot wound inside the lobby of a hotel later died, according to police.

Officers were first alerted about the incident at about 11:34 p.m. on Saturday when a person called and told authorities that the man was in the lobby of the Extended Stay America Hotel located along Farwell Drive and suffering from an apparent gunshot wound, police said.

Arriving officers found the man, who has been identified as a 48-year-old Fremont resident, outside the lobby, according to police. Officers administered first aid, but the man was later pronounced dead at the hospital, according to police.

Investigators did find a crime scene inside one of the rooms at the hotel, according to police. Officials said the victim and suspect(s) may have known each other.

At least three suspects have been taken into custody, police announced later Sunday.

An active investigation is ongoing, according to police. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Fremont Police Department's Investigative Unit at 510-790-6900. People wishing to send an anonymous tip can text "TIP FREMONTPD" followed by a message to 888-777.

The last reported homicide in Fremont came in September 2015, according to police.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Child's Body Found Near Home of Missing Texas Girl]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 21:06:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/211*120/richardson+body+found.png

The body of an unidentified child has been found near the home of missing 3-year-old Sherin Mathews, Richardson police say.

During a news conference Sunday afternoon, police said the child's body was found in a culvert.

Crime scene investigators from the Richardson Police Department and FBI's evidence recovery team spent hours on Sunday combing through a field where police discovered the body of a small child at 11:00 Sunday morning.

The body is presumed to be that of Sherin Mathews, reported missing by her parents on Oct. 7. The medical examiner will still have to confirm if the body is Mathews.

A crime scene has been established around where the body was found Sunday morning.

Richardson Police said one of their searches on Sunday led them to an open field, less than half a mile from the Mathews home. Search dogs helped find the body inside a culvert that runs under East Spring Valley Road near South Bowser Road.

The field is located in a neighborhood and surrounded by homes.

Mathews' father told police he put the girl outside as punishment because she did not drink her milk.

William Prussack, who lives in a townhome that overlooks the field, said he walks it every day with his dogs and never noticed any sign of the missing toddler.

"It's 150 yards from my driveway. We're absolutely devastated right now," Prussack said.

He and other neighbors watched crime scene investigators, some in hazardous materials style suits, inch their way across the field looking for evidence. Police have not said what specifically brought them to this site, other than to say continuous searching for more than two weeks helped lead them to the body.

"This can happen anywhere now. I never would have dreamed anything like this would have happened by my home," said Prussack. "To know that something this evil lurks so close to your backyard, you just can't help but wonder, it's like death knocking at your door."

Wesley Mathews, the father of Sherin, was previously arrested and charged with endangering or abandoning his daughter. He was freed after posting bond.

Police said there have been no new arrests following the discovery of the body.

Search warrants released last week revealed a washer and dryer were among 47 items seized from the Mathews home. 

Check back and refresh this page for the latest update. As this story is developing, elements may change.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[‘Random’ Items Santa Rosa Evacuees Grabbed While Escaping ]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:49:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Cover-photo-santa-rosa.JPG

“What is the Most Random Thing You Grabbed When You Evacuated?” Santa Rosa resident Shana Berger Van Cleave asked on Facebook on Oct. 17 at 10:52 a.m.

Three days later, the list is still going strong.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, the post had more than two thousand comments ranging from everything to every day household items, personal treasures and as the question suggests, just random stuff Santa Rosa residents remembered to take with them as they escaped from the fire which blazed through Sonoma County.

NBC Bay Area compiled some of the responses, which includes everything from Kleenex to family Bibles.

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“My four year old took his t-ball trophy <3” — Briana Woods

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“As I unpack, flashing rings, lavender oil, chapstick, mints, this under the bills .. random and I do not remember, as it was 3am Sunday night Monday morning and people we know we're already running for their lives. With a heavy heart, and hopefully a little giggle, I share this. Trying to keep the mood light, and apparently, flashy…” — Gay Bianco-Batte

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“I grabbed a game of Farkle and butt wipes, you guys. What the heck.” — Sari Meline

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“My drinking buddy was the only thing that got saved!!" - Poppy Keller Gillaspy

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“A mixed case of my favorite 2000 bottles.” — Matthew Alain Paille

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“Long story.” — Gina Ehren Swenson

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“A book that my great grandfather wrote. I didn't even sense the irony then. We were never actually evacuated though... but I never really added anything to my initial bags that I packed. It put a lot of things into perspective.” — Heather Evenson

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“My brother saved his entire hat collection.” — Brittney Campos

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“I grabbed a Christmas card I received from Barack Obama - odd, huh?”  — Patty Cory

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“Holy water and rose water (perfume) – blessed and smelling my best!”

For the complete list, click here.

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<![CDATA[Hit-and-Run Injures Two Bicyclists in Danville: Officials]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 16:43:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/DanvilleHandR.JPG

Paramedics responded to a report of a vehicle collision where two bicyclists were injured on Diablo Road in Danville Saturday afternoon.

According to officials, the suspect fled eastbound on Diablo Road. The vehicle was a silver Ford Escape SUV and police officials are currently searching for the suspect.

Both victims are conscious but suffered serious injuries. One bicyclist suffered traumatic injuries and was airlifted to Eden Medical Center while the other was transported to John Muir Medical Center in an ambulance.

According to officials, a group of cyclists were traveling Eastbound toward Blackhawk when the SUV drove into the group injuring two.  

Officials are asking anyone with information to call at (925) 314-3703.

No further details were immediately available. Stay tuned for updates.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area staff]]>
<![CDATA[Amid Scandal, Weinstein Company's Future Remains in Question]]> Sun, 22 Oct 2017 03:54:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP_17281854843740.jpg

This week, the number of women reportedly accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault grew to more than 60, NBC News reported. Added to that are allegations that the board wrote a weak employment contract, allowing Weinstein to simply pay a fine if the company was forced to settle claims.

Amid the ongoing scandal, the future of The Weinstein Co. remains uncertain. Two possible options: declaring bankruptcy or being acquired by an outside company.

Meanwhile, the finger pointing has begun. Those associated with Weinstein are trying to defend themselves against allegations that they knew about his past behavior and did nothing.

While Weinstein’s lawyers deny any non-consensual relationships, projects have fallen away, staff are exiting, and two thirds of the company's board have quit.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Cruz Bear Fire 'Calming Down,' 50 Percent Contained]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 11:03:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/BearFire.JPG

The 391-acre Bear Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains is "calming down" and is now 50 percent contained, a Cal Fire division chief said Saturday morning.

"We're somewhat scaling down now that the fire is calming down," said Cal Fire Division Chief Angela Bernheisel. "We want to put this thing to bed."

Fire crews are continuing to establish and reinforce containment lines around the fire. There are now 34 engines, three water tenders, one helicopter, 13 hand crews, two dozers and 75 other resources fighting the blaze, down from earlier in the week.

The fire has burned 391 acres, according to Cal Fire. Bernheisel said Santa Ana winds are expected in Southern California, "so we need to be able to put this thing totally to bed so we can be available for the next potential start that might happen."

Evacuation orders are still in effect for Bear Creek Canyon Road, Deer Creek Road, Rons Road, Dons Road, and their tributary streets in the fire area. Bear Creek Road between Hawk Ridge Road and Highway 35 is open to residents only, Cal Fire said.

The fire started Monday night at 10:37 p.m. and has destroyed four structures.

Evacuation orders for the Las Cumbres community, Skyline Boulevard community and areas south of Bear Creek Road were lifted Thursday morning, according to officials. 

Yelena Malysheva was one of the lucky evacuees who was able to return home Thursday after anxiously waiting to see if her home would be spared by the flames.

"I haven't slept pretty much in the four days," she said. "I'm totally exhausted. My kids are at school. They're very tired, too."

Though fire officials were generally upbeat about their progress in containing the blaze, there were some setbacks Wednesday. A drone grounded the much-needed air attack for about an hour.

Before the temporary stoppage, Cal Fire officials said the air support was critical in the steep terrain.

"The bucket drops are helping; they're a ton of help," said Steve Chapman, a Strike Force member. "And we're trying to get hose lines up here."

As of Thursday evening, 905 fire personnel, 72 engines, nine helicopters and three dozers were still battling the blaze, according to Cal Fire. 

Five firefighters, including an inmate firefighter, all suffered minor injuries  while working the fire lines on Tuesday, according to Cal Fire. Two more firefighters on Wednesday were transported to hospitals, one after suffering second-degree burns to his hands and the other also suffering from unspecified burn injuries, fire officials said. 

One of those hurt was Andy Goodson from the Santa Clara unit. He fell 50 feet while on the front lines of the fire. As of Friday, he is hospitalized but expected to be OK, according to Cal Fire. 

A Cal Fire official noted that the steep and rugged terrain has played a role in the injuries.

Officials are still trying to determine what exactly caused the blaze to ignite. Towering flames could be seen ripping through dense vegetation and devouring trees right after the fire started before they were eventually suppressed by fire crews on the ground and in the air.

The Zayante Fire Station, which is located at 7700 E. Zayante St. in Felton, has been designated as an evacuation center for those impacted by the fire. Another evacuation center has opened at Lakeside Elementary School — 19620 Black Road — in Los Gatos.

Those with horses and goats can seek shelter at the Graham Hill Showgrounds located at 1145 Graham Hill Rd. in Santa Cruz. Folks with smaller animals can go to Santa Cruz County Animal Services, which is located at 2200 7th Ave. in Santa Cruz.

One person has been arrested on suspicion of looting one of the homes that was in the evacuation area, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Sessions Urges Crime-Fighting Partnerships in Philly Speech]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 14:27:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/854197924-jeff-sessions-campus-free-speech.jpg

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech Saturday to police chiefs from across the country gathered in Philadelphia, said forging new relationships between local and federal authorities will help reduce crime in communities across the country.

It was the first of two speeches Sessions will give this week in a city that his Department of Justice has publicly battled for most of the last nine months over Philadelphia's sanctuary city approach to immigration enforcement. His appearances are part of a weeklong conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Sessions spoke about the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods program and other initiatives to reduce violent crime by the Department of Justice, including the use of federal prosecutors to aid in cases by local authorities. 

"Forging new relationships with local prosecutors and building on existing relationships will ensure that the most violent offenders are prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdiction," Sessions said. "But our goal is not to fill up the courts or fill up the prisons. Our goal is not to manage crime or merely to punish crime. Our goal is to reduce crime."

Sessions has had a rocky relationship with some of America's large cities during his tenure at the DOJ, with Philadelphia among the most notable.

He and Mayor Jim Kenney have traded barbs over the city's local immigration enforcement policies. The Trump Administration's DOJ has consistently labeled Philadelphia as in violation of federal requirements for notifying federal immigration officials when city police comes in contact with undocumented immigrants.

The city has argued that it meets all of demands of the federal statutes and any of the Trump Administration's additional requests are not only not required by law, but would hurt the ability of local police to fight crime.

The City of Philadelphia is suing the DOJ in federal court over the disagreement.

In his speech, Sessions talked about local and federal cooperation in crime-fighting efforts.

"Partnering with community leaders, and taking the time to listen to the people we serve really works. I remember, when I was a U.S. Attorney, my office prosecuted a gang in Mobile. When the case was over, community leaders asked for a community meeting to talk about how we could further improve the neighborhood," he said. "We developed a practical plan based on the requests of the people living in the neighborhood. It was a city, county, state, and federal partnership using existing resources to fix the community."

A large group of protesters, describing their demonstration as "Abolition Weekend," held a rally outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center at noon during the Sessions speech. Police say at least two officers were injured during confrontations with some of the protesters and that arrests were made, though they did not reveal the exact amount.

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Solar Could Transform Puerto Rico's Future ]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 00:13:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tesla_pic.jpg

While more than 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power a month after Hurricane Maria knocked out the island’s power grid, Hector Alejandro Santiago Rodriguez is at work on his nursery in Barranquitas because of the solar panels he installed six years ago.

Winds destroyed a third of his greenhouses and more than half of his plants and damaged a quarter of the solar panels, but Santiago’s Cali Nurseries never lost electricity after the storm. He has been able to pump water from his wells and operate his irrigation system for poinsettias, orchids and other plants he sells at Costco, Home Depot and other stores.

"It has been the best investment of my life," said Santiago, the largest grower of poinsettias and orchids in Puerto Rico. “In the past, people had problems with the high cost of electricity and now, with the distribution of fuel, for those who have generators.”

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It cost Santiago $300,000 for 244 solar panels, an expense that might dissuade others, but he said, “Now time has sided with me that the 'expensive part' is not having electricity when you need it the most.”

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The destruction of the island’s power grid has brought new focus on the bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and how the electricity system could be rebuilt in a more resilient way by taking advantage of renewable energy.

At a meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Puerto Rico had a chance to become a showcase for a sustainable energy grid with public-private partnerships. 

"We think there is an opportunity here to leverage growth in the energy sector and to be innovative, not only rebuild what we had in the past, but also with the aid of the federal government and with the private sector, rebuild a much modern, much stronger platform," he said. "And not only have Puerto Rico have energy but actually be a model of sustainable energy and growth toward the future."

Tesla, the manufacturer of solar panels, the Powerwall battery and the Powerpack commercial battery, and a German competitor, sonnen, are poised to become private partners in that switch to sustainable energy.

Tesla is snagging most of the attention. Rosselló has already talked with its founder Elon Musk, after Musk tweeted that the company could reconstruct the island's electricity with independent solar and battery systems.

"The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too," Musk wrote on Oct. 5.  "Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR."

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"Let's talk," Rosselló responded. "Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project."

Rosselló told USA Today that he and Musk later spoke about running a pilot program on the island of Vieques. The governor and a team from Tesla have since met and Tesla has sent experienced installers to Puerto Rico to train a small Powerwall installation team there, Musk tweeted.

Tesla declined to comment further but it has already constructed microgrids on Hawaii's Kauai and American Samoa and has said it will work with energy providers around the world to overcome barriers to building sustainable, renewable grids.

Francis O'Sullivan, the director of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MIT Energy Initiative, agreed that there was an opportunity now to integrate newer technologies into Puerto Rico’s power grid.

Companies like Telsa will be part of the effort, but they will not be able to rebuild Puerto Rico's electricity system in the next six months or even a year, he said. There is a tension between restoring electricity quickly and re-imagining the grid.

"That’s a really tremendously big job rewiring the entire island and not just a big job but a very expensive undertaking," he said. "And in terms of shorter term delivery or redelivery of electricity services, it is not the solution." 

For now, work is underway to restore hundreds of miles of transmission lines and thousands of miles of distribution lines. Even this short-term work will require more workers, more equipment and more money.

"It's too much for us alone," Nelson Velez, a regional director for the Puerto Rican power authority, told The Associated Press as he supervised crews working along a busy street in Isla Verde, just east of San Juan, on a recent afternoon. "We have just so many, so many areas affected."

But new technologies could be introduced in strategic locations, such as around public safety buildings or hospitals, O'Sullivan said. Micro-grids could incorporate more storage and renewable energy, he said.

Puerto Rico now produces only about two to three percent of its total electricity from such renewable energy as wind and solar, O’Sullivan said. That share has been growing rapidly but is still not more than 200 or 250 megawatts of a total capacity of 5 to 6 gigawatts. A transition on an island-wide scale would cost about $2 billion and take several years of work, he said.

"The more extensive redevelopment or rewiring of the system in Puerto Rico to make it more renewably centric and more more reliable, that’s not going to happen by the end of October or November," O'Sullivan said.

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Rauluy Santos, an auditor at PricewaterCoopers in San Juan, took a widely circulated photograph of Tesla Energy cargo at the Air National Guard Base Muñiz at Carolina, near San Juan's Luis Marín Muñoz International Airport on Oct. 14. He spotted the shipment while he was waiting for water, food, medicine and other goods sent from the Hyssop Church in Boston, to be distributed through the non-profit, Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción, of which he is a director.

Santos said it was time to for the island to invest in technologies such as solar energy to provide cheaper, more sustainable energy with lower carbon emissions. He and others are waiting to see if this is a publicity stunt on Musk's part or a true humanitarian effort, he said.

"However I believe in Elon Musk and have high hopes on his delivery of the promise," he said, "but please let it be with an affordable price tag in which our economy can get at least a bump with a new industry and new job opportunities from all the years in recession we've been."

He agreed that pilot programs should be tried first, on the islands of either Vieques or Culebra. 

"Our governor, Ricardo Rosselló, was proactive with Elon Musk's tweet and we're eager to learn what's the plan," he said.

While Tesla has been getting the publicity, a competing German company, sonnen, has been selling its sonnenBatteries in Puerto Rico for 18 months, according to the company’s U.S. senior vice president, Blake Richetta.

Sonnen is focused on creating microgrids for shelters, clinics and community centers in areas that lack power and clean water, it said. It is working with a Puerto Rican partner, Pura Energia, which installs solar panels with sonnen batteries, and it expects to have the first five micro-grid locations up and running by the end of October. Five additional micro-grids are to be running in November, and a total of 15 by mid-December.

Sonnen does not make solar panels but typically provides smart technology and storage while working with regional distributors and installers who bring the solar panels. For this project, the Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative, it is donating sonnenBatteries and covering the cost of the solar panels and the installation.

"Sonnen is also unique by virtue of the fact that our factory is shipping a working, proven product, on a daily basis and we can deliver energy security to the people of Puerto Rico, without delay," Richetta said in an email. "For sonnen, this is not 'theory.'"

Longer term it expects to sell and install more sonnenBatteries in Puerto Rico, as part of systems that increase resiliency and bolster the grid by creating localized power supplies and reducing the effect of a single point of failure -- important in the face of devastating storms.

"A decentralized electricity grid in Puerto Rico, composed of thousands or even a few million solar arrays, coupled with clean energy storage, would form a 'virtual power plant' for the island," Richetta said. "This distributed 'virtual power plant' would become the most resilient grid infrastructure in the country today, one that is effectively impossible to 'bring down,' via a hurricane."

Even before Hurricane Maria hit, British billionaire Richard Branson told Reuters that he was setting up a fund to enable Caribbean nations to replace fossil fuel-dependent utilities destroyed in Hurricane Irma with low-carbon renewable energy sources. The Caribbean islands have mostly been generating power by burning diesel. 

Branson has been approaching governments, financial institutions and philanthropists, Reuters reported last month.

"As part of that fund we want to make sure that the Caribbean moves from dirty energy to clean energy," Branson, who has lived in the British Virgin Islands for 11 years and weathered Irma on his private island, said.

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In a blog entry this week, the Brookings Institute noted both Tesla and sonnen’s emergency measures and evaluated the likelihood that the grid would be rebuilt with solar and battery storage.

"That is a hope but there’s no certainty," Lewis M. Milford and Mark Muro wrote.

"It would take a dedicated group of companies, a local government willing to be creative and strong federal support for rebuilding the power system in a more resilient way," they wrote. "Merely redoing the same diesel-dependent, centralized electric system, the status quo, should not be an option."

The Tesla project on Kauai consists of a 13-megawatt solar farm and a 52 megawatt-hour battery installation that Tesla and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative expect will reduce the use of fossil fuel by 1.6 million gallons a year, according to The Verge. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has contracted with Telsa to buy the electricity that is produced -- at 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour for 20 years.

On the island of Ta'u in American Samoa an $8 million solar project funded by the U.S. Department of Interior and the American Samoa Power Authority was completed late last year, according to National Geographic. That project — 1.4 megawatts of electricity that can be stored in 60 Powerbacks — shifted the island's energy generation from 100 percent diesel fuel to entirely solar. It will save about 110,000 gallons of diesel fuel and was built to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds.

Santiago, the nursery owner, is not sure his business will survive the crisis, but said he had already recovered 70 percent of his poinsettias and is trying to save others. He believes that after the catastrophe brought by Hurricane Maria more people will invest in solar energy. It has helped him protect the Earth and has provided him with clean energy and constant voltage which made his equipment last longer, he said. He sold excess energy to the government.

"Now, when nobody has electricity, we can pump our own water which makes us self-sufficient," he said.

"Cali Nurseries will survive Hurricane Maria with the favor of God," he said.

Photo Credit: Rauluy Santos
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<![CDATA[Doctor Rescued Premature Babies From Wildfire on Motorcycle]]> Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:57:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/171020-scott-witt-story-hospital-ac-808p_4d5440fb95c26e02f88ee58737bd10df.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

A courageous California doctor used a motorcycle to drive through the Santa Rosa wildfires to get to eight premature babies during the predawn hours of Oct. 9 just as the situation was intensifying.

"I got called at 2 a.m. because the flames were getting close enough to the hospital so the staff thought that we’d have to evacuate," Dr. Scott Witt, the medical director for the newborn intensive care unit at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, told NBC News in a phone interview Friday.

Witt, 45, was with his wife and four children at the time and safety had become a priority for his newborn patients as well as his own household.

His family chose to evacuate to a nearby church in Sebastopol, and Witt headed to the hospital. At first he took his truck, but he realized it would be hard to maneuver with dangerous roads and closed off areas, so he returned home.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital]]>
<![CDATA[Audit Finds PG&E Repair Job Backlog in Sonoma, Santa Rosa]]> Fri, 20 Oct 2017 19:31:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/PGE-EMAIL-MON-ok---00000000.jpg

The state’s last regulatory audit of the PG&E division ravaged by the North Bay firestorm warned the utility that it was late in fixing more than 3,500 known electrical problems in Santa Rosa and Sonoma alone, records reviewed by NBC Bay Area show.

The findings of the California Public Utilities Commission’s PG&E Sonoma Division audit -- performed in September 2015 – point to concerns about PG&E maintenance practices well before the fires that destroyed nearly 5,000 homes and claimed 42 lives. PG&E has filed eight separate regulatory notices of electrical equipment failures in the fires.

In a December 31, 2015 audit letter to the utility, Fayi Daye, a supervising electric safety regulator with the state’s Public Utilities Commission, outlined the violations found in the review of records between 2010 and 2015 and a spot check of the division’s electrical distribution equipment.

Daye noted that the auditors’ review of repair records for the areas that would become hardest hit by the fires -- Santa Rosa and Sonoma -- showed the company was behind schedule on a total of 3,527 separate repair orders.

“Late work orders included overhead and underground facilities,” Daye noted.

The audit also checked PG&E’s maps of electrical distribution lines and found more than 50 pieces of overhead equipment – including pole mounted transformers and lines themselves-- had not been inspected yearly as required under state rules.

Spot checks showed that for one power pole in Santa Rosa, a supporting cable was not properly connected to assure the pole could remain standing. Inspectors also found that communications gear had been spliced onto the line and was dangling 10 feet from the ground.

“PG&E did not notify the communications company of this safety hazard when it last inspected the pole,” Daye’s report noted. In another location in Somona, inspectors found “noticeable slack” on a support strut between poles.

The PUC didn’t issue any fines in the audit. Critics were dismayed by the findings.

“This is particularly alarming because these citations are where the fires happened," said Britt Strottman, and attorney for the counties ravaged by the San Bruno pipeline fire and the massive Butte fire in 2015. She says the audit reflects a troubling pattern. "PG&E has a history of neglecting its infrastructure and this is more evidence of that."

State Sen. Jerry Hill was also troubled by the findings and wants to make sure regulators do a better job of monitoring the utility's repair efforts.

“It was very shocking,” Hill said.

“Thirty five hundred jobs not completed really was a surprise because they are getting the money for these, they are getting the funds to do the work in a timely manner.”

PG&E did not respond to requests for comment or provide its official reply to the audit findings.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Small Plane Crash at San Carlos Airport]]> Fri, 20 Oct 2017 19:01:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/DMoBhgvVAAAbL_e.jpg

No injuries are reported after a small plane crashed late Friday at the San Carlos airport.

A San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputy on scene said the single-engine plane overshot the runway at the airport.

Allen Kenitzer with the Federal Aviation Administration said preliminary information shows the plane, a Cirrus SR-22, ran off the end of the runway while attempting to depart.

"The aircraft went through a fence and came to rest in the street," Kenitzer said.

Authorities said two people were onboard and were not injured in the accident.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the accident.

No other information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Sergio Quintana/ NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Authorities Continue to Investigate Cause of North Bay Fires]]> Sat, 21 Oct 2017 21:07:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Authorities_Continue_to_Investigate_Cause_of_North_Bay_Fires.jpg

Investigators continue to examine what sparked the deadly North Bay wildfires. Jodi Hernandez reports.