Friends and family gave a strong show of support at an Oakland courthouse Tuesday for one of the suspects charged with setting a string of fires in Alameda over the weekend.
27-year-old Stephen Petersen and 22-year-old Andrew Guiterrez are facing multiple felonies in connection with seven different fires.
Petersen is a musician and grew up in Alameda. Dozens of co-workers and family members showed up at the courthouse for his arraignment. It was the first time they have seen him since the arrest.
"We tried calling the jail, and they said at first we needed to put a down payment for him to make a long distance call. But they've never had him call us," Stephen's father Philip Petersen explained.
Petersen's girlfriend told KTVU she just hopes he is okay.
"I'm really worried," said Shayna Butler, "I know he's vegan, so I don't know if he's eating or if he's starving. I don't know how he's holding up because he is a very sensitive person. I'm really, really worried about his mental health right now."
Friends also expressed frustration at the police.
"I've tried to get a hold of them three times," said James Bulman. "I've left two voicemails and I haven't heard anything back."
Bulman told KTVU he is a co-worker and friend, but more importantly he says he is Petersen alibi. According to Bulman, Petersen couldn't have started those fires because he was at work with him on Saturday night and Sunday morning.
"The night ended about 1:45. He left shorty after we left," Bulman explained. He says the last thing Petersen told him was that he was going to go to Park Street to hang out with friends.
Bulman did confirm a call back from a detective Tuesday afternoon. Alameda Police told KTVU they call every potential witness. They also said only two people have called claiming to have witness information.
Witnesses appear to be key to the investigation.
According to court documents, Petersen "matched the description of a male seen at two additional incident of arson fires, within close proximity and time."
Friends say Petersen does not know the other suspect Andrew Gutierrez. He is described as a transient and used a translator as the felony charges were read to him.
According to court documents, Gutierrez "matched the description of a subject scene leaving the scene by a witness" and "was positively identified by the witness."
Documents also state that Gutierrez was "also observed at the scene of three other arson fire locations." Police believe they have video that shows him setting one of the fires.
Gutierrez is being held on $620,000 bail. Petersen is being held on $375,000 bail.
Both men asked for public defenders and will be back in court on Wednesday, October 1.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:03:57 -0700
A 34-year-old woman missing out of San Leandro since Saturday night has been found safe Tuesday evening, a police lieutenant said.
Teresa Thongsinthusak had spent the weekend in Sacramento with her family and on Saturday took an Amtrak train from Sacramento to Oakland, San Leandro police Lt. Robert McManus said.
From Oakland, police believe she took public transportation and spoke with family members around 10 p.m. Saturday when she told them she arrived home safe, according to police.
On Sunday, a family member received a phone call from a person who said she found Thongsinthusak's phone on a BART train that traveled between the MacArthur and South Hayward stations, according to police.
Thongsinthusak's family then sought help from police.
Officers checked Thongsinthusak's home where they found her Ford Taurus missing from the driveway, police said.
She had not shown up or called her job at an Oakland pharmacy at all this week, according to police.
Thongsinthusak and her vehicle were found safe Tuesday evening and no foul play is suspected, McManus said.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:59:02 -0700
The mayor of a Los Angeles suburb was shot to death Tuesday during an argument with his wife, who was taken into custody, authorities said.
Daniel Crespo, 45, was pronounced dead at a hospital, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Crystal Hernandez said.
Paramedics were called to a Bell Gardens condominium shortly after 2:30 p.m. Crespo and his wife, 43-year-old Levette Crespo, had gotten into an argument, Hernandez said. Their son, Daniel Jr., 19, tried to intervene and Crespo got into a struggle with him, she said.
His wife got a gun and shot Crespo several times in the torso, Hernandez said.
She was detained for questioning, Hernandez said.
Crespo and his wife were high school sweethearts who married in 1986. They met in New York, according to a biography on the city's website.
Bell Gardens, a suburb of about 43,000, is located about 18 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Crespo was elected to the City Council in 2001. The council is a part-time job and members take turns serving as mayor.
Crespo has been a county deputy probation officer for 15 years, according to the website.
However, county CEO Bill Fujioka stated in a Twitter posting that Crespo had more than 21 years with the probation department.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:37:40 -0700
Petaluma police are stepping up patrols around local schools after another report of a man trying to lure a teenage girl into his car.
Petaluma Police Lieutenant Tim Lyons says it's the fourth such report since school started this year.
"A subject came by and gestured to this female to come over to the car and she refused to and said she was going to call the police department, and then he took off and left," Lyons told KTVU.
All four incidents have been near Petaluma or Casa Grande high schools, although the most recent incident on Monday involved a 15-year-old walking by Miwok elementary school around 3:45 pm.
"Right now we have one person with repeat events or a couple of different people that are out there looking for targets," said Dave Rose of Petaluma City Schools, the city's largest school district. "We don't want any targets.”
Police arrested 27-year-old Carlos Antonio Cruz of San Francisco last week on felony charges for allegedly trying to lure girls into his car.
Cruz is believed to be living in the Petaluma area while working in construction.
Cruz bailed out of jail Sunday, the day before the latest incident.
"Based upon the previous incidents that have occurred it kind of matches some of the criminal incidents that have occurred here recently in Petaluma," said Lt. Lyons.
Police are now looking for Cruz and sharing his picture with other victims to see if he's connected to those cases.
In the meantime schools are using social media, emails, phone calls and letters to alert parents of all 7,500 district students.
"We want to remind parents, don't put your kids in a situation where they think walking home alone is a good thing," said Rose.
Some parents tell KTVU they are on edge.
"It's very scary. I don't understand it at all. It's very scary," said Kim Kai, whose child is a student at Casa Grande High School.
"You always need to be aware of what's going on and who's around you," said Melinda Clark, who also has a child at Casa Grande.
Petaluma knows all too well the dangers children can face, the 21st anniversary of the Polly Klaas kidnapping is Wednesday.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:09:07 -0700
Governor Jerry Brown signed the new law Tuesday that allows family members of someone showing signs of mental distress to get a court order blocking their access to guns.
While some were celebrating the legislation, others were already raising concerns about civil liberties.
Supporters of the new law, including the California Police Chiefs Association, said it may help prevent shootings before they occur.
Assembly Bill 1014 was born out of the tragedy outside UC Santa Barbara after a gunman stabbed and shot to death six people and injured several others last May.
The parents of the killer said they tried to get help for their son but felt powerless.
East Bay Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, who co-authored the legislation, says now relatives have a tool they could prevent violence from happening
"What 1014 does, is provide an effective and needed tool that can family members and law enforcement can use when they see someone is in a crisis; when they see someone threatening to commit acts of violence," said Skinner.
Under the law, a relative who sees signs of trouble in a family member can get a judge to issue a restraining order to get that person's gun taken away temporarily and prevent any new gun purchases.
A judge must determine if there is a credible risk.
"We are not just talking about shootings like in Isla Vista. We are talking about suicides on a daily basis," said Emeryville Police Chief Ken James.
The National Rifle Association opposed the measure, saying it lacks protections for gun owners.
"This bill's low evidentiary standard and lack of a mechanism for individuals to present their own defense before being deprived of their constitutional rights fail to meet American standards for due process of law," the organization said in a previously released statement.
Under the law, anyone who makes a frivolous claim could face a $500 fine. The new law goes into effect January 1st. No word yet if it will be challenged in court.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:08:32 -0700
San Jose police Tuesday arrested a male suspect on suspicion of assaulting two people after he barricaded himself in an apartment and prompted officers to evacuate some nearby residents, police said.
At about 4:01 p.m., police responded to the area of 18 S. 19th St. on a report of a male who brandished a knife, assaulted the two victims and entered the apartment, according to police Officer Albert Morales.
Police evacuated some apartment dwellers and made multiple attempts to convince the suspect to surrender and exit the residence, Morales said.
The suspect, who appeared to be by himself, at first refused to leave the apartment but was finally taken into custody more than an hour later and residents were allowed back into their units, Morales said
The two victims suffered injuries not considered life-threatening, police said.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:59:27 -0700
A Ferris wheel erected for a Wednesday night Oracle World party, stands in the southeast corner of San Francisco's Treasure Island. It's powered by a generator, brought in by the company. The aging electrical grid on the island is vulnerable to frequent outages, caused by birds, branches, kites and occasionally, vandalism.
On Friday evening, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission officials say someone used a hacksaw to cut 12,000 volt wires in an electrical switch box, a few yards from the site of the Oracle event. It plunged the island and about 2,000 residents into darkness from 7:30 until midnight.
SFPUC officials aren't sure of the motive in the crime.
"There's a couple of ideas," said SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue. "Oracle World was going on but they weren't even running off our power lines- they had separate generators. The second is they might've been trying to look for copper."
Treasure Island officials said equipment upgrades have reduced accidental outages by more than half from 2012 to 2013. But lately, the incidents have been rising.
"Over the last six weeks, we've had three outages which is higher than the pace we had been keeping," said Treasure Island Director Robert Beck. "We have fairly antiquated infrastructure and we have all overhead electrical lines. Whereas in the future, the new development will have all underground electrical cables."
The SFPUC said whoever cut the wires Friday is lucky to be alive.
"Not a very smart thing to do and frankly we were suprised we didn't find a dead body next to the switch," said Jue.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:43:47 -0700
An attorney for Brian Stow, the gravely injured Giants fan who won a multimillion-dollar damage suit against the Dodgers, has sued the team again, claiming it is trying to recoup $3.4 million in insurance payments from Stow for his medical care after a beating.
Attorney Tom Girardi said in the lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles that the Dodgers and its insurer want the money returned from the $18 million awarded to Stow this summer by a jury.
Stow suffered a traumatic brain injury after being beaten by two Dodger fans in a parking lot of Dodger Stadium on March 31, 2011. Doctors have testified he will require treatment for the rest of his life.
Jerome Jackson, a lawyer for the Dodgers, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:09:22 -0700
A new report released Tuesday -- almost a year and a half in the making -- was supposed to be the final word on whether the more than a million bolts are strong enough for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge to last 150 years, but it still left some questions unanswered.
The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee hired some of the world's most respected bridge engineers to conduct or review thousands of tests of bolts taken from the $6.4 billion bridge. The tests we're destructive under forces and corrosive wet environments far beyond what the bridge should ever experience.
"Our testing shows that without water, the rods do not fail. If we keep it dry, there will never be a failure by environmental hydrogen," said Herbert Townsend and independent bridge review engineer.
"We also know now that the rods that are in the structure will not fail under exactly the same conditions" added Alan Pense another renowned independent bridge review engineer.
In a few areas, some improvements were recommended even though the bolts exceed maximum strength safety margins.
"Supplemental corrosion protection would increase the capacity of these rods," said Pense.
"The way to increase that margin is to paint them and grease them." said Townsend.
Caltrans says that solution is easy, cheap and eliminates the other crushingly expensive option.
"Hundreds of rods that we were considering that we might need to remove based on lack of information, now we can be very confident we don't need to do it," said Caltrans Chief Bridge Engineer Brian Maroney.
But recently, small amounts of water have shown up at the base of the tower where other huge bolts, under far less tension than the ones that broke, hold the base of the bridge tower. Poorly done and unacceptable grouting that was missed during inspections allowed small amounts of water to seep into spaces where the grout was supposed to protect the bolts.
The water raised the specter of long term corrosion which the independent panelists dismissed as expected was intrusion during construction.
"In my opinion, this is not a major issue. It's an issue of maintenance," said independent bridge review engineer John Fisher.
Caltrans remains confident.
"This is a safe bridge," said Maroney.
Nonetheless, testing and close monitoring of these bolts keeps a final bolt report months away.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:49:31 -0700
Water use and other actions by the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California and Southern Oregon are threatening salmon already in danger of extinction, federal biologists said Tuesday.
Concerns about the impact of pot farming were raised by the NOAA Fisheries Service in its final recovery plan for coho salmon in the region. The full plan was to be posted on the agency's website.
A copy obtained in advance calls for determining then decreasing the amount of water that pot growers illegally withdraw from creeks where young fish struggle to survive.
Pot is legally grown in the region for medical purposes and illegally for the black market.
Other threats from the unregulated industry include clear-cutting forests to create pot plantations, building roads that send sediment into salmon streams, and spreading fertilizer and pesticides that poison the water.
Coho salmon have been listed as a threatened species since 1997 in the region. Like salmon throughout the West, they have suffered from loss of habitat from logging, agriculture, urban development, overfishing and dams.
The recovery plan also calls for steps to address many of those issues.
The spotlight on marijuana stemmed from a California Department of Fish and Wildlife study that estimated pot growers suck millions of gallons of water from salmon streams.
"Logging is regulated. Vineyards are regulated. It is time this industry was willing to be regulated," said Scott Bauer, an environmental scientist on the watershed enforcement team of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and lead author of the study.
Armed with new authority from the Legislature, the department is imposing fines for illegal water withdrawals for use on pot plantations, Bauer said.
The recovery plan points specifically to marijuana as a threat in river basins of Northern California, but the same issues exist in southwestern Oregon rivers, said Clarence Hostler, south coast branch chief for NOAA Fisheries in Arcata, California.
The plan marks the second time that Endangered Species Act actions have pointed to marijuana as a threat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been looking at rat poison left around illegal pot plantations in California as a factor in whether to list the Pacific fisher as a threatened species.
The Emerald Growers Association represents a few hundred marijuana farmers in the region known as the Emerald Triangle due to the prevalence of pot plantations. Executive director Hezekiah Allen said bringing the industry under regulation would allow legitimate growers to compete more evenly with illegal growers, who have a financial incentive to cut corners.
"We need regulation that's going to make sense to the farmers on the ground," he said. "That is also going to achieve the public safety and environmental goals that we all share."
The recovery plan covers 40 genetically related populations of coho salmon and includes the Eel, Klamath, Smith, Chetco and Rogue river basins.
The area covered by the plan stretches from the Mattole River near Petrolia, California, north to the Elk River near Port Orford, Oregon.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:50:41 -0700
The Washington Post is reporting a Secret Service team violated protocol when an armed security contractor, who was later found to have three prior convictions for violent offenses, was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 visit to Atlanta.
The Post reports three people familiar with the incident confirmed the events that took place when Obama was visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis.
According the sources in Post article, the contractor was using his phone to record video of Obama and refused to comply when Secret Service agents asked him to stop. The contractor was questioned by agents and a database check revealed the contractor's previous convictions for assault and battery.
The contractor was reportedly fired on the spot by a supervisor for a private security firm and agreed to turn over his gun. The Post said agents were not aware the contractor was armed.
“You have a convicted felon within arm’s reach of the president and they never did a background check,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told the Post. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the president and his family."
The Post report was another blow to the Secret Service which is facing criticism from Congress over the recent breach of the White House by an intruder.
On Tuesday, the director of the Secret Service admitted failures in her agency's critical mission of protecting the president but repeatedly sidestepped key questions about how a knife-carrying intruder penetrated ring after ring of security before finally being tackled deep inside the White House.
Despite the extraordinary lapses in the Sept. 19 incident, Julia Pierson asserted: "The president is safe today."
Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike expressed the view that the latest breaches of White House security had blemished the storied agency, and several pressed for an independent inquiry into what went wrong. They were not assuaged by Pierson's vow that "I'll make sure that it does not happen again" or by the agency's own investigation.
"I wish to God you protected the White House like you protected your reputation here today," Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., told Pierson at a public hearing that was followed by a classified, closed-door briefing. Chaffetz, who has led Congress' investigation, said afterward: "The more I learn, the more it scares me."
Calm but defensive in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pierson disclosed that shortly before the intruder jumped the fence at least two of her uniformed officers recognized him from an earlier troubling encounter but did not approach him or report his presence to superiors.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:14:11 -0700
Apple risks having to repay Ireland tax rebates worth billions of dollars after the European Union's competition watchdog said Tuesday the company appears to be benefiting from illegal tax deals there.
In a preliminary report into the company's overseas tax practices, the 28-nation bloc's executive Commission said the low tax treatment Ireland is granting Apple counts as state aid and could be illegal under EU law.
If the finding is confirmed, Apple Inc. could face a huge repayment bill because it funnels the bulk of its international sales through subsidiaries in Ireland.
To keep market competition fair, the EU forbids governments from helping individual companies. The EU first announced the tax probe in June, also targeting coffee chain Starbucks and others as part of a crackdown on multinationals exploiting tax loopholes.
The EU Commission is now requesting further documents from Ireland before making a legally binding decision on whether the rebate granted to Apple is illegal and must be recouped, wholly or partially.
The EU probe focuses on exaggerated transfer pricing, where one part of a company charges another part an inflated price for goods or services to shift profits to low-tax locations.
If Apple had to repay some taxes, the money would come as a windfall to Irish state coffers. However, fearful of losing its reputation as a business-friendly country with low corporate taxes, the Irish government is adamant that no EU rules have been breached.
The Commission said the tax deals Ireland struck with Apple in 1991 and in 2007 show "several inconsistencies" and may not comply with international taxation standards. The Brussels-based executive body also was critical of the fact that Apple's applicable tax rate appears to have been the result of "a negotiation rather than a pricing methodology" which a "prudent, independent" tax authority should not have accepted.
The Commission added documents provided by Irish authorities, including minutes of meetings with Apple's tax advisers, fail to provide a consistent explanation for the agreed tax rates. It did not publish an estimate for Apple's effective tax rate in Ireland.
Apple maintains it has not received a favorable treatment in Ireland.
"We're subject to the same tax laws as the countless other companies who do business in Ireland," the company said in an emailed statement. "Apple has received no selective treatment from Irish officials over the years."
The company added that its tax payments to Ireland increased tenfold since it launched its first iPhone in 2007. In the statement, Apple also said that on a global level, "comprehensive corporate tax reform is badly needed."
Apple's tax practices have also attracted scrutiny in the United States, where a Senate Committee last year published a scathing report on the Cupertino-based firm's tax schemes.
The report held up Apple as an example of legal tax avoidance made possible by the complicated U.S. tax code, estimating the firm avoided at least $3.5 billion in U.S. federal taxes in 2011 and $9 billion in 2012 by using its tax strategy.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Tuesday the EU probe underscores the need to close loopholes that "allow Apple-type gimmicks whose sole purpose is to avoid paying U.S. taxes."
"Apple developed its crown jewels — lucrative intellectual property — in the United States, used a tax loophole to shift the profits ... offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, then boosted its profits through a sweetheart deal with the Irish government," he said.
Levin added Apple's Irish tax rate "has no rational basis" because it is the result of what Ireland accepted when threatened with job losses.
The company currently employs some 4,000 people in Cork, Ireland.
Apple — one of the world's most valuable and profitable firms — sat on some $164 billion in cash and cash equivalents, with $138 billion stashed away in foreign subsidiaries, according to its latest quarterly report in June. The company estimated its effective U.S. tax rate is 26.1 percent, as opposed to the statutory U.S. rate of 35 percent, primarily because of undistributed foreign earnings.
"A substantial portion" of those foreign earnings was generated by subsidiaries organized in Ireland, Apple said in the regulatory filing, adding that "such earnings are intended to be indefinitely reinvested outside the U.S."
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:04:07 -0700
PayPal's impending split from long-time partner eBay Inc. will ratchet up its appeal to online retail competitors such as Amazon.com and give it the freedom to aggressively take on new mobile pay challenger Apple Pay. For eBay, the challenge will be how to drive revenue without its fastest-growing division.
The move marks a 180-degree turn for eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, who had been adamant in spurning activist investor Carl Icahn's call months ago to spin off PayPal. Donahoe, who will step down after the split is finalized in the second half of next year, said he now agrees that it's the right path for both companies. With the launch of Apple Pay next month expected to reshape the mobile payments industry, Icahn said he's "happy" eBay came around, "perhaps a little later than they should have, but earlier than we expected."
Investors were happy too, sending eBay shares up more than 7 percent to close at $56.63 on Tuesday.
PayPal services $1 of every $6 dollars spent online. It collects fees from over 150 million users who use the online service to send money to other users and pay for goods and services in more than 200 markets. Acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.3 billion, its partnership with the popular site helped expand PayPal's reach worldwide. The service posted 20 percent revenue growth in the last quarter to $1.95 billion — representing nearly half of eBay's total revenue.
PayPal also has staked a claim in the small but swiftly-growing mobile payment arena, and is on track to process 1 billion mobile payments this year. It launched PayPal Here and acquired Braintree and its One Touch mobile payment service, which compete with players such as Square and Google Wallet. The payoff is huge for whichever player can own the space: mobile payments could spike to $58.4 billion by 2017 from just $1 billion last year, Citi Investment Research analyst Mark May said in August. And the pressure is on. Apple Inc., which has 800 million user accounts through iTunes, threw down a gauntlet last month with the announcement of its own digital wallet Apple Pay, slated to launch in October.
So what might be PayPal's first solo move?
Courting major eBay competitors such as Amazon.com Inc. and newly public Alibaba, who might be more likely to partner with PayPal now that it's not married to a direct competitor, says Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali. The company also could be a takeover target. Squali notes that Google and Microsoft (not to mention Visa and Mastercard), have tried to build online payment platforms with varying degrees of success.
And with PayPal "now essentially free to focus on payment innovation, and standing on the shoulders of a well-capitalized eBay, they can act more aggressively to counter new competitors," says R.W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian. He notes that PayPal will end up with a sizable amount of cash and none of eBay's debt.
New CEO Dan Schulman will bring both mobile and prepaid payment experience to the company. Schulman, 56, was founding CEO of Virgin Mobile, before leading the prepaid group at Sprint Nextel and most recently expanding mobile and online pay services at American Express. Citi's May noted that few people have that background in financial services, mobile technology and payments — three key strengths to be competitive going forward in digital payments.
The benefits of the move for eBay are less clear. The San Jose, Calif., company was plagued this year with a data breach and an algorithm change at Google that led to fewer hits from the search engine. In its most recent quarter, core marketplaces revenue rose just 9 percent to $2.17 billion, versus a 20 percent jump in payments revenue.
Devin Wenig, currently president of eBay Marketplaces, will become CEO of the new eBay Inc., leading both the marketplaces and enterprise divisions.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:02:15 -0700
A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.
Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital say the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and that the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.
The hospital had announced a day earlier that the patient's symptoms and recent travel indicated a case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.
The CDC initially embargoed the announcement of the diagnosis until 4:30 p.m. CDT, but then lifted the embargo after several news organizations broke that restriction.
The CDC has said 12 other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27. Those tests came back negative.
Four American aid workers who have become infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. has only four such isolation units but the CDC has insisted that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
According to the CDC, Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
Jason McDonald, spokesman for the CDC, said health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus.
"The first and foremost determinant is have they traveled to the region (of West Africa)," he said. The second is whether there's been proximity to family, friends or others who've been exposed, he said.
U.S. health officials have been preparing since summer in case an individual traveler arrived here unknowingly infected, telling hospitals what infection-control steps to take to prevent the virus from spreading in health facilities. People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure. Ebola isn't contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:57:03 -0700
A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.
The patient was in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which had announced a day earlier that the person's symptoms and recent travel indicated a possible case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.
The person, an adult who was not publicly identified, developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from Liberia and showed no symptoms on the plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the patient came to the U.S. to visit family and has been hospitalized since the weekend.
State health officials said no other cases are suspected in Texas.
Specimens from the patient were tested by a state lab and confirmed by a separate test by the Centers for Disease Control, said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health & Human Services, said health officials in North Texas are well equipped to care for the patient.
"This is not Africa," he told Dallas station WFAA. "We have a great infrastructure to deal with an outbreak."
Twelve other people in the U.S. have been tested for Ebola since July 27, according to the CDC. All of those tests were negative.
Four American aid workers who became infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. has only four such isolation units, but the CDC has insisted that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
Health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus — whether that person has traveled to West Africa and whether he or she has been near friends or relatives or other people who have been exposed to the virus, said CDC spokesman Jason McDonald.
Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:52:50 -0700
The search for a serial burglar or burglars has intensified Tuesday in the wake of 15 home Palo Alto home burglaries in the month of September, authorities said.
As part of the effort, Palo Alto police released a sketch of a suspect seen leaving the scene of a residential burglary that occurred on September 24 on the 3000 block of Cowper Street.
The burglary occurred between 11:45 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
In this case, the suspect removed a screen from an open and unlocked bathroom window and entered the house.
While inside, he ransacked the residence and stole jewelry, cash and small electronic items.
After the burglary, a witness saw him walk away from the house and enter a tan sedan that was parked nearby.
However, investigators said they had yet to link to the man to the other 14 home burglaries.
Throughout the first nine months of 2014, there have been 98 residential burglaries, investigators said.
Although the overall number is lower than in 2013, activity has increased in residential neighborhoods located in the southern part of town.
The recent cases have occurred on streets such as Cowper Street, Greer Road, Louis Road, Webster Street and others in or around the 3000 to 3500 blocks.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:41:19 -0700
California became the first state to allow family members to petition judges to take away relatives' guns if they are deemed to be dangerous after the governor signed a bill introduced in the wake of the UC-Santa Barbara shootings.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced Assembly Bill 2014 after a deadly rampage in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara that left six people dead and 13 injured from gunshots and stab wounds.
Tuesday was the deadline for Gov. Jerry Brown to act on the last of the 768 bills approved during the final weeks of the legislative session, which ended Aug. 31
Supporters say the new law will help prevent future attacks like the one in Isla Vista, while opponents believe it will erode gun rights.
Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies had visited the killer, 22-year-old community college student Elliot Rodger, weeks before the rampage after his parents raised concerns about his behavior. But deputies determined he was not a threat.
The legislation makes California the first state to let family members go directly to a judge to request a restraining order that would prohibit gun possession, at least temporarily.
Law enforcement officers in Connecticut, Indiana and Texas already can seek a judge's order allowing them to seize guns from people they deem to be a danger.
Skinner's bill now extends that authority to family members.
A court hearing would be set within 14 days for firearm owners to argue that they are not a danger.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:18:01 -0700
Facing blistering criticism from Congress, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson acknowledged on Tuesday that her agency failed in its mission of protecting the White House when a man with a knife entered the mansion and ran through half the ground floor before being subdued.
"It's unacceptable," Pierson told lawmakers. But her promised review of how the storied but blemished agency carries out its mission of protecting the president — and how it failed to intercept the intruder much earlier — left lawmakers from both parties cold. With key details of the extraordinary intrusion still a mystery 11 days afterward, several lawmakers said the agency should be subjected to an independent inquiry.
"I wish to God you protected the White House like you protected your reputation here today," Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch told Pierson at a hearing.
Calm but defensive in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pierson disclosed that shortly before the intruder jumped the fence Sept. 19, at least two of her uniformed officers recognized him from an earlier troubling encounter but did not approach him or report his presence to superiors.
On Aug. 25, Army veteran Omar J. Gonzalez was stopped while carrying a small hatchet near the fence south of the White House, Pierson said. Weeks later, the same officers observed him "for some time" but never intervened. Gonzalez later went over the fence and broke inside the White House.
President Barack Obama and his daughters had left for Camp David shortly before the episode; Michelle Obama had gone to the retreat earlier in the day.
"The fact is the system broke down," declared committee chairman Darrell Issa. "An intruder walked in the front door of the White House, and that is unacceptable."
Not only that, he said, but the intruder penetrated at least five rings of security protecting what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure properties.
"How on earth did it happen?" he asked. "This failure ... has tested the trust of the American people in the Secret Service, a trust we clearly depend on to protect the president."
After the public hearing, which lasted more than three hours, Pierson and the lawmakers went into a closed meeting to discuss classified details.
Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania called the Sept. 19 intrusion "stunning, outrageous, disgraceful."
Despite the lapses, Pierson asserted that "the president is safe." And she said of the intrusion, "I'll make sure that it does not happen again."
Obama's spokesman, Josh Earnest, urged the Secret Service to release results from its investigation as soon as possible, although he added that parts are likely to remain classified. He said Obama remains confident in the agency.
The president "was obviously concerned about this situation as a parent and as a father who is raising two young women here in this building," Earnest said Tuesday, and "there is legitimate public interest in this matter because it relates to the safety and security of the commander in chief."
Pierson's assurances fell short for lawmakers from both parties, who were aghast, too, about a four-day delay in 2011 before the Secret Service realized a man had fired a high-powered rifle at the White House.
The Washington Post reported on the weekend that some Secret Service officers believed immediately that shots had been fired into the mansion but they were "largely ignored" or afraid to challenge their bosses' conclusions that the shooting was not directed at the White House.
Such breaches, combined with recurring reports of misbehavior within the agency, cause "many people to ask whether there is a much broader problem with the Secret Service," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the committee.
Lynch told the agency's chief at the hearing he had "very low confidence in the Secret Service under your leadership. Based on the evidence, that's how we have to call it."
Members of Congress briefed by the agency apparently weren't told of the full extent of the breaches. And the Secret Service gave The Associated Press a statement incorrectly saying the intruder was not armed, and never corrected the release. Under questioning, Pierson said she saw the inaccurate statement before the agency put it out.
Details emerged only later. Among them: The recent intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. This, after he made it past a guard stationed inside the White House.
On the way to the East Room, the intruder would have passed a stairwell that leads to the first family's residence. It was unclear what security would have been in place to prevent Gonzalez from attempting to go up to the family quarters.
Pierson said Tuesday that the front door to the White House now locks automatically in a security breach. She said that on Sept. 19 a Secret Service guard was attempting to lock one of the doors manually when the intruder knocked the agent down.
Senate Judiciary Committee staffers who were briefed about the investigation by the administration a week after the incident were never told how far Gonzalez made it into the building, according to a congressional official who wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation and requested anonymity. The official said the committee later was told that the suspect had, indeed, made it far beyond the front door.
Pierson said there have been six fence-jumpers this year alone, including one just eight days before Gonzalez went over.
Pierson's predecessor, Mark J. Sullivan, apologized to lawmakers in 2012 after details emerged of a night of debauchery involving 13 Secret Service agents and officers in advance of the president's arrival at a summit in Colombia. Sullivan retired about 10 months later.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:53:41 -0700
Louisville police confirmed to local media sources that a student suffered non life-threatening injuries in a shooting at a Louisville high school
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, dispatchers confirmed the report of gunfire at Fern Creek High School just after 1 p.m. Central. Initially there was no word on a shooting suspect.
Authorities said parents had been been notified. WHAS-TV reported that some parents were told a student was shot inside the school.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:07:20 -0700
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office has dismissed charges in the 1989 murder of Cathy Zimmer against her ex-husband and his brother, citing an affair by a prosecutor with a lab technician, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The district attorney's office filed charges earlier this year against David Zimmer, 66, and Robert Zimmer, 70, in the strangulation death of Cathy Zimmer, whose body was found wrapped in a quilt in her car parked at San Jose International Airport on March 10, 1989.
Prosecutors assigned a new prosecutor to the case last month after learning about a sexual affair between Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani and Amanda Cardenas, the DNA analyst and courtroom witness for the murder case who worked at the county's Laboratory of Criminalistics.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller indicated that murder charges could be filed again in the future, stating that "prosecutors will now reassess the case" and that such felony cases "that have not gone before a jury may be dismissed and re-filed."
Buller stated that the office reevaluated its case against the Zimmers because of the affair but also because Kajani "failed to provide evidence to the defense in a proper manner."
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement that his office made the decision because it has "an absolute and ethical duty to enforce the laws in a just and objective manner and without regard to sympathy, bias or prejudice for or against any particular party."
"We offer our deepest apologies to the family of the victim, but based on the totality of the circumstances, we simply cannot proceed without taking the time to reexamine and reevaluate the case to ensure we have not violated the rights of the accused, or compromised the integrity of the criminal justice system," Rosen said.
David Zimmer, Cathy Zimmer's ex-husband, has been released from Santa Clara County Main Jail and the district attorney's office has asked for his brother Robert to be released as well, according to Buller.
Kajani had used Cardenas to test DNA samples allegedly found on the zipper and button of Cathy Zimmer's pants that had been retained by authorities since her murder and Cardenas said that Robert Zimmer's DNA was located there.
The prosecutor used her as an expert witness in DNA during a preliminary hearing in the case in May and later before a grand jury that heard the case, according to the district attorney's office.
In his case against David Zimmer, Kajani alleged that his motive was to collect insurance money from Cathy's death, to make extra funds by selling their San Jose home and because he was having an intimate relationship with another woman at the time of his estranged wife's death.
David Zimmer's attorney Michael Cardoza, after learning of Kajani's affair with Cardenas last month, criticized the prosecutor, saying that because Kajani was also having an affair, he "hoisted himself on his own petard."
Buller, Kajani, Cardoza and Robert Zimmer's lawyer Steve Defilippis could not immediately be reached for comment.
Published: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:25:10 -0700