A growing crowd formed in front of the San Francisco headquarters of tech company Twitter Monday evening as part of a protest demanding city and state officials support students, families and public education.
A rally started in front of Twitter headquarters at 1355 Market St. around 4:30 p.m. with demonstrators giving speeches, carrying signs and singing Christmas songs with altered lyrics.
The group was planning to start marching along Market Street with a stop at an apartment building where many residents are facing eviction and ending at the Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market and Fifth streets.
Following a rally outside the shopping mall, were plans for holiday caroling with "alternative" lyrics, focusing on the so-called "1 percent."
An altered version of "Deck the Halls" included the lines "Now's the time to reclaim our city, fa la la la la la la la la la. They don't pay their share of taxes."
The protest is taking on various issues including saving City College of San Francisco, which is dealing with accreditation issues; stopping evictions of longtime, working class residents; demanding affordable housing; and supporting the public school system.
Shanell Williams, the student trustee at City College, said companies such as Twitter need to help the community they are based out of, not just the "super wealthy."
"It's unfair for students, families, and seniors to bear the burden" of increased housing and education costs and other public services.
"We support these companies," Williams said, however "they need to give back to the community."
She noted that funding cuts to the beleaguered community college seem unfair when the city has afforded companies major tax breaks.
San Francisco City Supervisor Eric Mar was also at the start of the protest, carrying a sign that said, "Stop the Corporate Greed."
He said he expected other supervisors to join the march.
Protest organizers said the city needs to reset its priorities, and that an imbalance of support for tech companies that receive benefits, such as the infamous Twitter payroll tax break in 2012, is harming residents, students and families.
The march, rally and vigil are part of a "National Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education" taking place with teacher unions across the country.
Williams said access to education, jobs, and housing are all connected and provide the foundation for successful residents. But instead many residents, such as working-class people and students, are being pushed out.
The event is organized by the United Educators of San Francisco and has support of 20 other organizations, including the San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Rising, the San Francisco Tenants Union, the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, which represents City College of San Francisco faculty, Jobs with Justice and others.
Across from Twitter headquarters about a dozen motorcycle police were standing by, however by around 5 p.m. the protest remained peaceful.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 21:57:58 -0800
On Monday the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office released the identities of four homeless men who died over a week's time due to cold weather exposure in San Jose and Saratoga.
All four men passed from causes related to hypothermia between Nov. 28 and Thursday, the medical examiner reported.
The first to die was Daniel Brillhart, 52, whose body was found Nov. 28 south of downtown San Jose under a bridge for state Route 87 at Delmas and Auzerias avenues.
Last Wednesday, the body of Enrique Rubio, 56, was located in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue.
The next two deaths were discovered last Thursday: a body found in a garage in 20000 block of Orchard Road in Saratoga was identified as Andrew Greenleaf, 48, and the body of Daniel Moore, 53, was recovered at Curtner and Canoas Garden avenues near state Route 87.
On Friday, EHC Lifebuilders announced that in response to the deaths and unusually cold winter weather, it had added 375 beds at three homeless shelters San Jose, Sunnyvale and Gilroy until today to handle more people during current cold conditions.
There are about 7,600 homeless people in Santa Clara County, many living outdoors in the elements within encampments, Jenny Niklaus, spokeswoman for EHC Lifebuilders.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 21:32:35 -0800
Two mothers are leading the charge against Contra Costa County Public Work’s department calling for a stop sign on their street.
Currently there is only a crosswalk at the intersection of Idlewood Drive and Newell Avenue, the woman says that’s not enough.
"I've been almost hit probably a handful of times over the last five years with my children present," says Stephanie Lathrop.
Lathrop and her neighbor, Le Lan Jorgensen are leading the initiative together.
“We have a near miss almost twice a week. And I'm not doing it anymore," Jorgensen said.
She adds that it’s gotten so bad she no longer walks her children to Parkmead Elementary School, just one block away.
"It's gotten so bad. We just drive to school. It's much less stressful, it’s safer. But it's silly," she tells KTVU.
The woman say what they’re asking for is simple, just a stop sign.
"What is it going to take? Is it going to take someone actually getting seriously injured or dying?" says Lathrop.
On Monday county workers installed three magnetic counters to the ground which will not only count the numbers of vehicles but also determine speed.
This is part of the required warrant procedure to add stop signs. It looks at numerous criteria, including vehicle volume on Newell Avenue, Idlewood Drive and a private roadway leading to Dorris Eaton School.
"I wish we didn't have to depend on collision data to convince the county that we need this. I think the collision will come. It's just a matter of time," Jorgensen says.
The county will activate the counters Monday just before midnight and monitor the area for 48 hours.
It could be months before a final decision is actually made.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 20:37:05 -0800
San Jose is about to solve one of its biggest problems in its police department – hire a new chief -- with the hope it will also resolve other ongoing situations.
City Manager Debra Figone was expected to recommend interim Police Chief Larry Esquivel to staying in the post permanently on Tuesday morning.
The recommendation will be presented to the city council in closed session and, if approved as expected, Esquivel will be offered the job.
In an exclusive interview with KTVU on the eve of the big day, Esquivel joked his (office) “stuff is still packed because it's never been unpacked.”
“Hopefully, the move will provide some stability to the department,” said Esquivel. “It will allow me to go forward with some administrative hiring decisions.”
Esquivel was named interim chief almost a year ago.
He was in the post as the city conducted a nationwide search but all of the candidates were, essentially, rejected by community representatives.
Another search was supposed to take place but Figone decided Esquivel had proven himself dealing with staffing and morale problems.
“I did not plan on getting the chief job, so I take great pride in this,” said Esquivel. “It's a privilege sitting here. I don't take it lightly.”
Esquivel says he's trying to be realistic about solving staffing and morale situations tied to the ongoing fight with the city over pension reform.
The 28-year veteran and former Deputy Chief says he hopes he can help retain and recruit because he's not an 'outsider' coming in.
“I'm a native to this community,” said Esquivel. “I'm a native of this city and I've grown up in this department.”
Esquivel could get a welcome boost on his first day because the police labor agreement that restores a prior pay cut for officers could be approved at the same council meeting.
If Esquivel is approved, he will be sworn in publicly during Tuesday's afternoon session.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 19:38:47 -0800
Benicia police are looking for the person they say stole thousands of dollars in holiday gifts intended for young cancer patients.
Surveillance video shows the suspect using a flashlight early Monday morning to peer into a car parked on James and Chadwick Courts.
The car that was broken into was parked down the street and the owner of that car was a nurse in the oncology department at Oakland Children’s Hospital.
The thief stole a load of gifts including toys, a skateboard and clothes. The gifts were supposed to go to two families with children undergoing cancer treatment.
Both the Benicia fire and police departments are working to help replace those gifts.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 19:38:27 -0800
The sign on the Sonic drive-in in Belton, Mo. said "'KC Chiefs’ will scalp the Redskins feed them whiskey send – 2 – reservation."
The sign was put up by an employee and was taken down quickly but not before drawing a huge amount of response on social media.
Delores Schilling (@DelSchilling) tweeted “Everyone please look at this pic and tell @sonicdrive_in what you think of it. Please RT! “
NBC News reports a Columbia University professor Audra Simpson said at “first blush (the sign) is just shockingly racist, hateful.”
Sonic vice president Patrick Lenow told NBC the employee is “known for creative use of his signs,” but admitted this one was “in poor taste.”
Lenow also released an official statement saying “the remarks posted on this message board were wrong, offensive and unacceptable.In a misguided effort to support his football team an independent franchise owner allowed passion to override good judgment. The owner has reinforced with his employees the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable. On behalf of the franchise owner and our entire brand we apologize for the offensive remarks.”
The Chiefs won the game 45-10.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 19:05:08 -0800
During a cold snap, like what the Bay has seen recently, many who work in home deliveries have found themselves taking on another role, checking on the welfare of the people they see each day.
Fremont Letter Carrier Colleen Meade knows her route like the back of her hand, so she’s often the first to notice when something’s amiss.
Meade once foiled a burglary in progress but often times the emergencies she spots are less obvious.
"If they notice there's a mail buildup or even newspapers that haven't been collected for awhile, they know that something's wrong," says Gus Ruiz, spokesperson for the USPS Bay Valley District.
And when the temperatures drop, those wellness checks become even more important.
"They're the eyes and ears of the neighborhoods they serve and the people know that," Ruiz adds.
They're not the only ones going door to door. Volunteers with SOS Meals on Wheels do more than drop off lunch.
"We're checking in. We're making sure that they're there, that they're safe, that they're warm," says Jessica Albonico with Alameda Meals on Wheels.
If they notice a problem, the drivers contact family members, supervisors and then police. Over the last few days they even contacted PG&E when they noticed a man's power had been turned off.
These visits can be invaluable for seniors and those at-risk.
"The drivers are oftentimes the only people they see during the day so they really count on us," says Connie McCabe, Executive Director of SOS Meals on Wheels.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:56:45 -0800
The San Francisco Marriott Marquis has just launched its First Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest and San Francisco residents are invited to come vote on a winner.
The gingerbread houses are currently on display throughout the lobby of the hotel until January 2, 2014 and the public as well as hotel guests are asked to cast their vote for the most creative gingerbread house.
Each of the hotel's 22 was tasked with the challenge of crafting a unique gingerbread house display from identical pre-baked gingerbread house kits. Associates were allowed to add anything edible that they wanted to the kit as long as they did not exceed the pre-cut board base provided to display their finished masterpiece on.
The department, which created the winning gingerbread house display, will win a pizza party and bragging rights until next year.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:50:59 -0800
Hundreds of students at Community United Elementary School in Oakland have had to endure the latest cold snap with no heat in their classrooms.
On Monday, the Oakland Unified School District confirmed the 65 year-old main building on International Boulevard had been without heat for a week.
When a boiler for the old building broke down, district officials say they ordered a replacement part right away, but it didn't arrive until Monday afternoon.
Community United's principal told KTVU the temperature in some classrooms may have dropped into the mid 40's.
“In my grandson's class there's no heat and it's freezing in there,” said grandmother Peggy Abraham who went inside the school to check out the conditions for herself after KTVU told her about the problem.
A district spokesperson said teachers had to “get creative” to keep everyone warm, asking students to bundle up.
While a few classrooms had space heaters, there were not enough for all of the 11 classrooms affected.
“We want to assure the public this is a top priority,” said OUSD spokesperson Sue Piper. “It's critical that our buildings be warm and comfortable, otherwise learning doesn't take place.”
When asked why it took so long for a replacement part for the boiler to arrive, a maintenance worker for the district said the part is not readily available and was ordered directly from a factory in Pennsylvania. The boiler was fixed by late Monday afternoon.
“We need that,” said School Officer Gloria Mendoza. “A lot of our teachers are getting sick and the children, so that's going to make attendance a lot better.”
The school district says teachers were told to alert parents about the cold conditions in the classrooms, but some parents told KTVU they never received the message.
“I didn't hear anything and I was in the office with the principal and a teacher and I still didn't hear anything,” said mother Marilyn Davis.
Community United Elementary School serves about 400 students in Kindergarten through 5th grades. About two-thirds of students are English Language Learners.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:23:40 -0800
Piedmont police say permanent license plate readers recently installed at some of the city’s intersections have been helping combat crime in the area.
"We've made two stolen vehicle, auto theft arrests since they’ve been up," Piedmont Police Chief Rikki Goede said.
The cameras are attached to lamp-posts on city streets and intersections.
Many residents have commented on how inconspicuous the cameras seem.
"They just blend in," said Wayne Batavia, of Piedmont. "In fact, most people don't even know they're here."
Batavia remembers the day they arrived and he's glad to see these cameras overlooking the street corner outside his home that sits on the Piedmont - Oakland border.
"I think it's a great idea. There's been an increase in robberies in the city," said Batavia.
The cameras work by taking a picture of the license plate of every car that drives by – those plate numbers are then automatically run through a data base to cross-check for stolen vehicles.
If a car comes up as stolen, a dispatcher will receive an alert and an officer will respond within minutes.
Goede says Piedmont has seen a 30 percent increase in car theft in the past year and so far the cameras have helped deal with the problem.
Not all residents were so keen on the cameras.
"I don't know. I have mixed feelings," said, Rob Kelly, a Piedmont resident.
Kelly said he understands it's a crime-fighting tool the city spent about $700,000 to install, but he wonders about the non-financial costs.
"My biggest concern is privacy and the loss of privacy. And not just the consequences today, but in the next 30 years," Kelly said.
Goede responds pointing out that the cameras are installed on public roads.
"The reality is, you’re driving on a public road, so there’s no expectation of privacy, but we're very careful there needs to be a law enforcement reason to look at it," Goede said.
There are currently 39 license plate readers at 15 different locations within the city limits. Only half of those 39 are in operation as the city works with PG&E to get power installed to every camera within the next two weeks.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:17:48 -0800
Gayle Allard flew into San Francisco from Madrid last week to help find the hit-and-run driver who critically injured her son.
Pepe Bolorinos, a 25 year-old UC Berkeley economic graduate and employee at Burlingame's Acumen, was struck Tuesday night as he stepped off a curb at Scott and Oak streets.
“He was going down to get some food. And a car came down here... and hit him as he was just stepping off the curb,” said Allard. “The light was red- and [the car] threw him about 20 feet, and then sped off.”
“He still has not awakened, he's got severe brain trauma, and of course, a very badly broken left leg. We're thankful he's alive,” Allard later added.
It was one of four hit-and-run incidents in the city last week.
“I think there isn't any real pattern, per se,” said San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy. “It's just unfortunate that all these various collisions happened around the same time.”
A taxi on Tuesday morning struck and injured a bicyclist in the city's financial district. Police later found the driver. Around the same time, police say the driver of a rental car hit a pedestrian at Seventh and Brannan streets.
“The suspect actually came out of the vehicle and moved the pedestrian out of the roadway,” said Shyy. “However when she fled, she ended up running over the pedestrian's leg again.”
On Valencia Street, a memorial marks the spot at Clinton Park where Kurt Dalen -- a noted local artist and street tagger -- was hit and killed early Thursday by a dark, four-door sedan.
Pedestrian advocates say the cases highlight a wider problem on crowded city streets.
“We also know that three pedestrians a day are hit by cars in San Francisco. And those stories go unreported,” said Nicole Schneider, Executive Director of Walk SF. “We're really scared that this is something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”
Bolorinos' family has been distributing fliers seeking the public's help. So far, their search for surveillance video has not turned up any useful leads.
“There's a moral issue at stake here as well if people really think that they can do something and nothing happens,” said Allard, “[when] you hurt somebody badly and you drive away.”
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:08:09 -0800
Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the nation's largest utilities, set an all-time record for natural gas consumption Monday.
The folks at PG&E's new natural gas control center say that the recent California cold spell has chilled everything down and on Monday a record was set with peak demand reaching about 4.9 billion cubic feet.
PG&E Gas Systems Director Mel Christopher tells KTVU that during Thanksgiving the system recorded 2.4 billion cubic feet.
He adds that the amount of gas being used currently is double what they typically see, and beats the last record set 15 years ago.
San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson asks whether the pipelines can handle all the high pressure gas.
The area suffered a massive pipeline explosion in 2010 that killed eight people and incinerated 38 homes.
"Until the records and the system has been validated, verified and tested we won't rest," says Jackson. PG&E says she should not worry.
"Every single foot of our transmission pipeline has been verified and it maximum allowable operating pressure has been established," says Brittany Chord, PG&E Spokeswoman.
Jackson says she is not convinced.
"The situation in San Carlos clearly demonstrates that there remains significant issues of concern. About what it has in its records and what it has in the ground," says Jackson.
PG&E had to correct its own records when it learned that a huge gas transmission pipe in San Carlos that it verified as having no seams was, in fact, seamed.
But PG&E officials say there is a bit of good news.
"Right now we've seen about 75% of the supply that meeting the demand on the system today (Monday) coming out of storage," says PG&E Gas Operations Director Mel Christopher.
That's good for customers because PG&E bought that gas at low prices in the summer and stored it underground, out in a stoppage mine in the San Joaquin River Delta. So, the price customers are paying for gas currently is significantly cheaper than if PG&E bought it on the spot market now.
"Today, it's probably 50% or maybe 75% than that," says Christopher.
Depending on overnight temperatures a new record could be set Tuesday.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 17:51:41 -0800
Fire officials have identified a woman who died after a house fire in Benicia on Thursday morning as 82-year-old Ellyn Levin.
Levin and her 82-year-old husband, whose name has not been released, were found in a rear bedroom of their burning home in the 300 block of Larkin Drive after firefighters responded there at about 2 a.m.
They were taken to Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center, then transferred to St Francis Memorial Hospital's Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco. Levin died there at 7:15 a.m. and her husband remains hospitalized.
The fire is considered accidental, Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon said. It started in a family room off of the kitchen that contained several lamps and wall outlets, Lydon said.
"There are several potential causes," Lydon said.
Benicia police Lt. Frank Hartig said today, "The Benicia Fire Department is providing support to the family and Fire Chief Jim Lydon had personally been in contact with family members helping them navigate this tragic event."
The elderly couple's family members live out of state, Hartig said.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 16:53:42 -0800
Silicon Valley is escalating pressure on President Barack Obama to curb the U.S. government surveillance programs that vacuum personal information off the Internet and threaten the technology industry's financial livelihood.
A coalition that includes Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft lashed out in an open letter printed Monday in major newspapers and a new website, http://reformgovernmentsurveillance.com .
The crusade united eight companies that often compete fiercely against each other, but now find themselves banding together to limit the potential damage from revelations about the National Security Agency's snooping on Web surfers.
Twitter Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and AOL Inc. joined Google Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. in the push for tighter controls over electronic espionage. The group is immersed in the lives of just about everyone who uses the Internet or a computing device.
As the companies' services and products have become more deeply ingrained in society, they have become integral cogs in the economy. Their prosperity also provides them with the cash to pay for lobbyists and fund campaign contributions that sway public policy.
Monday's public relations offensive is a by-product of documents leaked over the past six months by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The records reveal that the NSA has been obtaining emails and other personal data from major tech companies under secret court orders for the past five years and scooping up other data through unauthorized hacking into data centers.
Silicon Valley has been fighting back in the courts and in Congress as they seek reforms that would allow them to disclose more information about secret court orders. Several of the companies are also introducing more encryption technology to shield their users' data from government spies and other prying eyes.
Monday's letter and the new anti-snooping website represent the technology industry's latest salvo in an attempt to counter any perception that they voluntarily give the government access to users' email and other sensitive information.
Although the campaign is ostensibly directed at governments around the world, the U.S. is clearly the main target.
"The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution," the letter said. "This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It's time for a change."
Civil liberties aren't the only thing at stake. One of the reasons the technology companies have become a rich vein for crime-fighting authorities is that they routinely store vast amounts of personal data as part of their efforts to tailor services and target advertising.
By analyzing search requests, Web-surfing habits, social networking posts and even the content of emails, the companies are able to determine, for instance, the type of digital ads to show individual users. The NSA revelations have raised fears that people might shy away from some Internet services or share less information about themselves. Such a shift would make it more difficult for companies to increase their ad revenue and, ultimately, boost their stock prices.
In a statement, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the NSA disclosures had "shaken the trust of our users."
Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, two of the richest people in the world, also chimed with statements urging the U.S. to adopt reforms to protect personal information.
U.S. intelligence officials have staunchly defended the electronic espionage, contending the NSA's tactics have helped disrupt terror attacks. Officials also insist that the agency takes care not to look at the content of conversations or messages by U.S. citizens.
Obama has asked a panel of hand-picked advisers to report on the spying issue this month and recently said he'll propose the NSA use "some self-restraint" in handling data.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden indicated the administration expects to address many of the concerns raised in Monday's letter after Obama's advisers complete their review. "As we have said repeatedly, we are committed to conducting intelligence activities with appropriate constraints, oversight, transparency and accountability," she said.
Monday's letter goes farther than the companies' previous statements in favor of overhauling surveillance practices, according to Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. He notes that the new principles put forward by the companies include "an unambiguous condemnation" of bulk data collection as conducted by the NSA.
It was a shrewd move for the companies to disseminate the open letter through newspaper ads, said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
By virtue of connecting directly with a massive proportion of the U.S. population, the companies "have a huge reach," Castro said. "They want people to be supporting and rallying around this effort."
The Silicon Valley companies also are waging an attack in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where they are fighting to be allowed to reveal more details about how frequently the NSA has been seeking user data. U.S. law currently prevents the recipients of national security orders from breaking down the number of demands they get under the Patriot Act. The companies contend that restriction fuels the erroneous perception that the government has a direct pipeline to their users' data.
The government countered with a motion on Friday arguing that it should be able to redact, or withhold from publication, parts of its justifications to the courts for barring such detailed reporting by the companies.
Technology companies are also concerned that governments outside the U.S., such as the European Union, might set tougher rules for businesses to protect the privacy of their citizens, according to Joss Wright, a research fellow of the Oxford Internet Institute.
"It's potentially huge," Wright said. "Other countries around the world could make it harder for (the companies) to carry on with unrestricted data gluttony."
Liedtke reported from San Francisco. Associated Press Writers Danica Kirka and Raphael Satter contributed to this story from London.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 16:48:21 -0800
San Francisco police say they are on the lookout for a man who allegedly pepper-sprayed two homeless people before stealing their 6-week-old puppy near Buena Vista Park.
Officer Gordon Shyy says the victims were asleep in a van parked on Buena Vista Avenue West at about 6 a.m. Friday when someone began loudly knocking on the door.
The man told the victims that he was a police officer, Shyy says, but when they opened the door and asked to see his credentials, he pepper-sprayed them and grabbed the puppy.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the victims, a woman and a man, were temporarily blinded and didn't see where the man fled.
Police are also looking for the dog, which is an American pit bull and Rhodesian Ridgeback mix.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 16:03:30 -0800
Even before the cold snap brought sub-freezing temperatures to the Bay Area last week, local furnace repair shops were inundated with calls from homeowners with broken heaters.
At the Ace Furnace shop in South San Francisco Monday, employees told KTVU say phones have been ringing non-stop for repair calls for about a month.
Ace has a staff of 15 employees and they say many of their technicians have been working 40-65 hours per week.
They also say they get at least 80-140 calls per day and it hasn’t been this busy since 2005.
They’re noticing that many of the furnace-related calls could’ve been prevented if homeowners checked their heaters during the summer or early fall and likely would’ve saved about $300-$800 as for the demand for repair parts is greater now.
“If they had gotten it checked during the summer, then they would've taken care of it, at that time, at a lower price Now, the prices go up because of the demands,” said Linda Toailoa of Ace Furnace.
But some preventive advice they say is to make sure your vents are open, check your filters, and even check the batteries on the thermostat, they say they get a lot of simple calls on easy fixes like that.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 15:47:44 -0800
Sonoma County Sheriff's investigators spent Monday gathering evidence in Shiloh Ranch Park near Windsor, where skeletal remains were discovered by a hiker the afternoon before.
A skull, other bones and a shoe were found in an isolated area near a trail by a man walking with his kids through the park Sunday.
After investigating the man’s report, responding officers discovered more remains but had to postpone the investigation until the next day because night had fallen.
Sheriff's investigators told KTVU on Monday that they didn't know the person's approximate age or gender.
Crime scene technicians were working with the coroner Monday to excavate the remains while the department's Violent Crimes unit was also involved in the investigation.
A Sheriff's Sergeant said it's unclear how the person died or if foul play was involved, but the discovery is suspicious.
“We'll assume the worst until we can prove otherwise,” said Sonoma County Sheriff's Sergeant Brad Burke.
The coroner was expected to try to identify the person through dental records or using D.N.A., while detectives were combing through missing persons reports to see if anything matches.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 15:19:30 -0800
Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies were working Monday to confirm the identity of a person whose badly burned body was found inside an Aptos home that caught fire near state Highway 1 early Saturday morning, according to a deputy.
At about 12:20 a.m. Saturday, the Aptos-La Selva Fire Protection District responded to a call about a fire at a three-story home in the 9700 block of Monroe Avenue, near the Rio Del Mar Boulevard exit on Highway 1.
The flames were coming from the third floor of the home, which stands against a hillside, and firefighters were not able to climb to the top to reach the room, fire Division Chief Mike Conrad said.
Firefighters were able to access the first two floors, however, and two people living in the home escaped to the driveway below, Conrad said.
After dousing the two-alarm blaze, firefighters discovered the severely burned body on the home's top floor, Conrad said.
No one else was injured, he said.
The fire district is investigating the cause of the fire, which started on the third floor, but crews cannot yet go into the home yet because it is too unstable, Conrad said.
“There is nothing to indicate there was anything suspicious, but we can't be sure until we can get inside the building,” said Conrad.
Some neighbors told firefighters that the victim might have been the owner of the home, he said.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 14:42:51 -0800
The 85-year-old U.S. veteran who was detained for weeks by North Korea said Monday that the videotaped confession in which he apologized for killing North Koreans during the war was given involuntarily and under duress.
In a written statement issued Monday, Merrill Newman, of Palo Alto, Calif., said he tried to show that the words he read on the recording were not his own by emphasizing the apology's awkward phrasing and poor English grammar.
"Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily," Newman said. "Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to."
The former Army lieutenant said that while the North Koreans treated him well during his detention at a Pyongyang hotel, an interrogator told him repeatedly that if he did not apologize for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and during his visit to the communist nation, he would be sentenced to 15 years in jail for espionage.
"Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home," he said.
Newman, who was deported Friday and returned home to California on Saturday, was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea. His visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was scheduled to visit South Korea following his North Korea trip to meet some of the former fighters he had helped train.
Before he arrived in North Korea, Newman said he requested and was given permission to visit the region where he spent his war years advising the clandestine Kuwol fighters. Once he got to Pyongyang, "I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were.
"The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister," Newman said in his statement. "It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that."
Newman's full statement is below:
Over the past two days, I've been able to reunite with my wonderful family, rest, and try to recover from the difficult ordeal that began when I was prevented from leaving North Korea on October 26th. I can't begin to tell you how good it is to be home, to be free, and to begin to resume my normal home life.
Let me repeat my thanks to the U.S. State Department for the amazing job they did in getting me out of North Korea and bringing me home safely. I want to thank Vice President Biden, who called me in Beijing to wish me well and even offered to give me a lift back to the United States on his plane. Thanks also to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their great work, especially their visit to me and their help in ensuring that I had the medicine I needed.
Let me also express deep appreciation to friends, family, members of the First Congregational Church, wonderful people of faith and from all walks of life, residents and staff of our home at Channing House, and Members of Congress for their prayers, vigils, hard work, and moral support on my behalf. I want to single out Evans Revere for his extraordinary help.
It wasn't until I got home on Saturday that I realized what a story I had become in the press here. During my detention I had no access to any outside news, and wondered whether anyone was even aware of my situation. I am sorry I caused so many people so much heartache back home.
Looking at the television and newspaper reports, I've seen a lot of speculation about why I was detained. I've given considerable thought to this and have come to the conclusion that I just didn't understand that, for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn't over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner.
I'm a Korean War veteran and I'm proud of my military service, when I helped train Korean partisans. The North Koreans still harbor resentment about those partisans from the Mt. Kuwol area and what other anti-Communist guerrillas did in North Korea before and during the war.
The shooting stopped sixty years ago, and the North Koreans have allowed other American veterans of the war to visit. Moreover, I did not hide my own military service from the tour company that organized my trip. Therefore, I did not think this history would be a problem. Indeed, in my application for a tourist visa, I specifically requested permission to visit the Mt. Kuwol area. That request was approved and was on the official itinerary when I arrived, although after I got to Pyongyang, I was told that the bridge had been washed out by a flood and it would not be possible to do so.
Before they told me this, I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were. The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister. It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that.
I've also seen a lot of reports about the "confession" I made in North Korea. Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily. Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me "confess" to. To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the "confession" in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for me to say. I hope that came across to all who saw the video.
Getting the "confession" and my "apology" were important to the North Koreans. Although the North Koreans treated me well during my detention (they looked after my health and fed me well), I was constantly under guard in my hotel and my interrogator made it clear that if I did not cooperate I could be sentenced to jail for espionage for 15 years. In fact, the North Korean interrogator repeatedly made the following statement to me: "If you do not tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will not be able to return to your home country. If you do tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will be able to return to your home country — someday." Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home.
In the coming days, as I recover my strength I plan to share more details about my experience in North Korea. I know there is a lot of interest in this and I'll do my best to answer as many questions as I can. We also ask that you not forget that another American, Kenneth Bae, is being held in the DPRK and we hope that he, too, will be allowed to rejoin his family. For now, let me finish by saying again how great it is to be back home, safe, and with my loved ones.
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 14:29:41 -0800
Researchers in Australia claim to have found a treasure trove of freshwater beneath the ocean floor.
The findings were first revealed in the scientific journal Nature Thursday. The authors of the study say there's "mounting evidence" freshwater could be found globally.
The study, led by a scientist from Flinders University, says these reserves were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. The water filtered through the ground before it ended up being covered by ocean water.
So just how much freshwater do scientists think we have under the sea?
The International Business Times reports scientists estimate there are 120,000 cubic miles of freshwater under the sea floor near places like Australia, North America, South Africa and China. The study's lead author says it's more than all the underground freshwater used since 1900.
And Gizmodo adds it's more than 20 times the amount of all the water in the five Great Lakes.
So if we potentially have all that extra water we didn't know was there, what should we do with it?
Scientists say if we want to use it for drinking purposes, the only ways to get it are by drilling on land or offshore. They're careful to warn drilling can be expensive and the supply would be non-renewable. (Via Voice of America)
But Forbes points out it might be a price some countries are willing to pay. The U.N. projects about half the world's population could be under so-called "water stress" by 2030.
See more at: Newsy.com
Published: Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:51:25 -0800