SF News

Volunteers to Graduate from Senior Exercise Training, Mayor Lee to Participate

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is scheduled to present certificates today to 23 senior fitness volunteers who have completed training and pledged to bring their new skills to the community.

Staff members from city agencies and other volunteers have completed 32 hours of training in exercise programs geared towards senior citizens, organizers said.

In return for training, each graduate has pledged to donate 50 hours of service to Always Active, a city-wide program that promotes health and wellness in seniors.

The program aims to introduce exercises that can help reduce chronic disease and prevent falls, as well as encourage education and socialization, organizers said.

Always Active is sponsored by On Lok's 30th Street Senior Center, the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, the San Francisco Senior Center, and the University of San Francisco's Department of Exercise and Sports Science.

Today's event will begin with a senior boot camp at 1:30 p.m., during which participants will exercise at On Lok's 30th Street Center Garden at 225 30th St.

The boot camp will be followed by a graduation ceremony at 2:30 p.m.
CONTACT: Jim Hill (510) 427-4623

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Friday Morning News Roundup

Los Angeles' police chief said Thursday he is "confident" that the man arrested in connection with the beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium is the right person.

"Giovanni Ramirez is, and was, and has been our primary suspect on the Stow beating," Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Ramirez, a 31-year-old Los Angeles resident, was arrested in the 800 block of Mariposa Avenue on Sunday morning. He was booked into Los Angeles County Jail for assault with a deadly weapon on $1 million bail, and is now being held without bail on a parole violation.

Ramirez was put in a police lineup Wednesday, and the "successful" outcome of the lineup has boosted the department's certainty that he is one of the two people who attacked Stow, police spokeswoman Officer Norma Eisenman said.

Police have not released details about the lineup.

The news conference was called after Ramirez's attorney, Anthony Brooklier, said that Ramirez has an alibi for March 31, the day of the attack. But Beck did not address any of the remarks Brooklier has made claiming Ramirez's innocence, Eisenman said.

Brooklier did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday afternoon.

The case will be presented to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley "in the near future," Beck said, but he did not provide any specific time frame.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office will not make a decision on whether charges will be filed until the investigation is complete and police have presented the case, district attorney spokeswoman Jane Robinson said.

Officers are still searching for another man involved in the beating and a woman who drove the getaway car.

Police described the woman as Hispanic, about 20 years old and 5 feet 3 inches tall, with brown or dyed hair in a ponytail. She was with an approximately 10-year-old boy in a newer-model, light-colored luxury sedan with a tan interior.
A judge Thursday denied a bid for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the formal unveiling of a memorial at an Oakland cemetery that commemorates the 918 victims of the mass suicide at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978.

The $45,000 memorial, which consists of four granite plaques, was installed at the Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland on May 9. A dedication ceremony is planned for Sunday.

Much of the money for the memorial was raised by a group called the Jonestown Memorial Fund, which includes Jim Jones Jr. of Pacifica, the son of the Rev. Jones.

The most controversial aspect of the memorial is that it includes the name of the Rev. Jones.

The victims of the mass suicide on Nov. 18, 1978, were members of the Peoples Temple, which was headed by the Rev. Jones. The temple was headquartered in San Francisco but later moved to Guyana.

Of those who died, 409 are buried at the Evergreen Cemetery at 6450 Camden Ave., where memorial services are conducted every year on the anniversary of the deaths.

The Rev. Jynona Norwood, the senior pastor of the Family Christian Cathedral in Inglewood -- who lost 27 family members, including her mother, in the mass suicide and organizes the annual memorial services -- filed a lawsuit against the cemetery two weeks ago, alleging that it had reneged on a commitment to have her install her own memorial there.

Although the memorial planned by the Jonestown Memorial Fund is already in place, Norwood wants to have it removed.

Norwood said after the first court hearing on the legal dispute two weeks ago that Jones' name shouldn't be on any memorial at the cemetery because it "desecrates the memory of the victims."

But Evergreen executive director Ron Haulman has said he allowed the Jonestown Memorial Fund, which is a new group, to install its memorial because Norwood never raised enough money to complete the memorial she had planned.

In his ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert McGuiness said he is denying Norwood's request for a preliminary injunction because if he granted it, there would be "substantial harm" to the Evergreen Cemetery and others.
California's first female attorney general, Attorney General Kamala Harris, was in East Palo Alto Thursday morning to talk to more than 150 seventh and eighth grade girls.

Harris joined KRON4 anchor Jessica Aguirre and dozens of Bay Area women executives, judges and doctors at a "Current and Future Leaders of Silicon Valley" summit hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The leadership summit, which was held in the school gym at Cesar Chavez Academy, was organized to expose middle school girls to a variety of professional women role models.

Harris, a two-term San Francisco district attorney who was named one of the 20 most powerful women in America by Newsweek magazine, told the room of mostly black and Latino students that she had considered working in design, cooking and music before deciding to pursue a career as a prosecutor.

"I tried the French horn but that involved too much spit," said Harris, who is also the first African American and first South Asian American to hold her current office.

"I decided I wanted to be a prosecutor to punish adults who hurt children," she said.

Harris, a native of Oakland, recalled moments of discouragement during her first campaign for district attorney in 2003.

"They said, 'No one that looks like you has ever done that job before,'" Harris said.

"I didn't listen," she said. "What I will tell you is don't you listen when someone suggests that no one like you has done something before."

The audience erupted in applause.

Harris, who launched anti-truancy programs as district attorney, encouraged the girls in the audience to stay in school and empower themselves through education.

"Never give up," she said. "I can't wait to see what barriers you're going to break."
The International Space Station and space shuttle Endeavour will be over the Bay Area early this morning and again early Sunday morning and could be visible from the ground if the sky is clear, according to the NASA Ames Research Center.

The shuttle and space station will be in orbit nearly 220 miles above the earth's surface and will look like a bright star approaching from the southwest and moving directly overhead.

The first opportunity to see the shuttle and space station will be at about 5:15 a.m. today. They will be visible again at about 4:27 a.m. Sunday, according to NASA.

The space shuttle and its six-man crew are on a 16-day mission to deliver an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, and spare parts to the space station.

The AMS is a 15,000-pound particle physics detector designed to search for unusual matter by measuring cosmic rays. Experiments with AMS data are designed to help researchers study the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter, strange matter and antimatter, according to NASA.

The current mission is the final flight for Endeavour and the penultimate flight for the Space Shuttle Program, according to NASA.
Folding bicycles are now allowed on San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and light-rail vehicles, a Muni spokesman said Thursday.

The policy is part of the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency's bicycle plan to increase ridership around the city, spokesman Paul Rose said.

The city's original bike plan was adopted in 2005, but improvements to the network could not be implemented until four years later when a court injunction was lifted.

Rose said the foldable bike policy was not enacted with some of those initial improvements by the SFMTA because "we just wanted to make sure we were moving as safe and as appropriately as possible."

Customers using folding bicycles are asked to fold their bikes prior to boarding, and to keep them with them and away from other passengers or wheelchairs.

Non-folding bicycles can be put on bike racks mounted on the front of Muni buses. The agency is currently developing a policy for allowing them on the light-rail vehicles. No bikes of any kind are allowed on cable cars.

As part of the city's bike plan, Muni is also working with BART to set up a bike station at the Civic Center station, which the two agencies share.

Since the court injunction was lifted, the SFMTA has installed more than 350 sidewalk bike racks, which provide 700 bicycle parking spaces, as well as eight on-street bike corrals in areas with high bike parking demand.

For more information on the city's bike plan, visit www.sfmta.com/bikes.
Santa Clara County sheriff's detectives have recovered stolen firearms in connection with a home invasion robbery in Gilroy three months ago.

The weapons, which included 20 handguns and 40 rifles, were found in several secret compartments hidden beneath a carpeted floor at the apartment of 25-year-old Ernesto Gonzalez in San Jose on Wednesday morning, sheriff's Sgt. Rick Sung said.

Detectives also found various collectible items that belonged to the victim, as well as an assault rifle that they determined was stolen from a Sunnyvale residence in a separate residential burglary case, Sung said.

Gonzalez and five others were arrested earlier this month in connection with the alleged robbery, which occurred on Feb. 6 at a home in the 1000 block of Rucker Avenue.

On that night, three suspects ambushed the victim, a 59-year-old man, when he arrived home around 9 p.m. They allegedly tied up the man and then tortured him by repeatedly striking him with pool cues and wooden sticks before pouring chemical substances over his face and body to get him to reveal the combination code to his safe, sheriff's officials said.

The suspects beat the victim to the point where he temporarily lost consciousness, according to the sheriff's office.

They took various items from the victim's home, including guns, stamps, coins and playing cards. They fled with his pickup truck, but the truck was later found burning in the area of state highways 9 and 35, just outside of Saratoga.

After the suspects left his home, the victim was able to untie himself and run to his neighbor's house to call authorities.

He was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery for his injuries, which at the time were considered life threatening.

The arrest of Gonzalez and five others were made on May 3 at five different locations throughout the Bay Area, according to the sheriff's office.

The suspects have been identified as Juvenal Reyes, 62, of Gilroy; Danny Rivera, 22, of San Jose; Norberto Serna, 41, of Morgan Hill; and Juan Fonseca, 21, of San Jose. A juvenile was also arrested.
A 52-year-old man was seriously injured after an SUV struck him as he was riding his bicycle in Los Gatos Wednesday morning.

The collision occurred around 7:40 a.m. on Los Gatos Boulevard, just south of state Highway 9, according to police.

Officers from the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department, along with Santa Clara County firefighters and paramedics responded and found the cyclist, Bahram Saghari, of Los Gatos, suffering from injuries to his head.

He was transported to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition Thursday.

The collision occurred when the driver of a Ford Explorer, identified as 42-year-old San Jose resident Juan Antonio Rodriguez-Gallegos, made a left turn from southbound Highway 9 onto eastbound Wheeler Avenue and was broadsided by Saghari, who was riding in the bicycle lane on northbound Los Gatos Boulevard, police said.

At that time, northbound traffic was backed up for the red signal light at the intersection of Highway 9, police said.

Police said Saghari had been wearing a bicycle helmet.

Rodriguez-Gallegos was cited at the scene for not having a license.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation.

Anyone with information about the collision is asked to call Sgt. Steve Walpole at (408) 354-6851.

A 64-year-old ATM serviceman has been charged with stealing $200,000 from cash machines in San Francisco and Daly City and replacing the money with counterfeit bills, according to the San Mateo County district attorney's office.

San Francisco man Samuel Kioskli, a former employee of Diebold, was accused of using his work cardkey to access cash inside six Bank of America ATMs in San Francisco and one in Daly City, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Prosecutors say Kioskli was caught on surveillance video on the Fourth of July 2010, taking money out of the machines and replacing it with counterfeit or photocopied $20 bills.

The following day, the suspect allegedly abandoned his wife and disappeared, Wagstaffe said.

Bank customers immediately complained that the ATMs were dispensing fake money.

The defendant was arrested May 11, 2011, during a routine traffic stop in Phoenix, Ariz., and was extradited to the Bay Area to face charges in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Kioskli, who remains in San Mateo County Jail on $25,000 bail, has pleaded not guilty to charges of burglary, embezzlement, forgery and possession of counterfeiting apparatus.

The defendant is scheduled to be back in San Mateo County Superior Court May 31 for a preliminary hearing.
The San Mateo County coroner's office has identified a Newark man who died in a crash near La Honda while working for a local open space district late Thursday morning.

Luis Audelo-Partida, 26, was killed in a crash reported at 11:22 a.m. in the vicinity of Alpine and Mindego Hill roads, in a rural area of San Mateo County near the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.

The vehicle involved apparently was being driven in an area without a paved road and somehow went out of control and tumbled into a canyon, according to the CHP.

The CHP reported earlier Thursday that three people had died, but CHP Sgt. Matt Otterby said Thursday afternoon there is only one confirmed fatality.

Two other people suffered major injuries and were airlifted to hospitals, Otterby said.

Three people suffered minor injuries and one person was uninjured, CHP Officer Kevin Bartlett said.

Rescue crews had trouble reaching the crash site, which is only accessible by foot and horseback, he said.

Three medical helicopters were dispatched to the area, he said. 

Audelo-Partida was driving with other contractors who were out spraying non-native plants for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, district spokesman Gordon Baillie said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, the San Mateo County Fire Department and other agencies responded to the crash.

A man has been convicted of kidnapping and rape charges in a cold hit case from 2001, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Damien McCartney, 37, was convicted by a San Francisco Superior Court jury on Friday of two counts of kidnapping to commit rape, two counts of rape, and other sexual assault charges, as well as an allegation that he used a deadly weapon during the attack, prosecutors said.

According to evidence presented at the two-and-a-half week trial, early on the morning of Oct. 4, 2001, the female victim went to a bus stop at Mission and Oliver streets in the city's Outer Mission neighborhood.

McCartney approached her, dragged her away and assaulted her, according to the district attorney's office.

In 2006, a match was made between McCartney's DNA and the DNA found at the scene, but the case could not be prosecuted because the victim could not be located.

Three years later, McCartney was arrested in Santa Clara County in an unrelated case. A lieutenant in the San Francisco Police Department's sex crimes detail noticed the arrest and looked again for the victim. She was found and the rape case was filed, prosecutors said.

McCartney will return to court on June 21 to set a date for his sentencing. He faces a maximum sentence of 110 years to life in state prison.
Three people were displaced in East Oakland Wednesday eveningafter a resident trying to destroy weeds in his yard caught his home on fire, a battalion chief said.

When they arrived on scene at about 5:30 p.m., firefighters found the single-family home, located at 9851 Burr St., completely engulfed in flames, battalion chief Bruce Nielsen said.

Fire personnel had the fire under control about 30 minutes later, but the home was totaled, Nielsen said. The Red Cross assisted the displaced residents.

Nielsen said the fire was extremely difficult to fight because the home's two main floors and basement were all burning at once.

He said members of one truck company cut holes in the roof to ventilate the home, while other firefighters simultaneously attacked the flames all on three floors.

About 40 people in total responded to the fire.

"They definitely earned their pay," Nielsen said.

The fire started when one of the homeowners tried to get rid of a pile of weeds in the backyard, according to Nielsen.

It was unclear if the man burned the weeds intentionally or accidentally ignited them, but somehow the vegetation adjacent to the house began burning.

The flames went up the outside of the structure and then got into the home.

Somebody reported the fire by phone while a neighbor went straight to the closest firehouse, which is about half a block away, Nielsen said.

A second house was exposed to heavy heat.

"We got close to losing two houses," instead of one, he said.

A damage estimate was not available Thursday.
Two or three residents were displaced following a two-alarm fire that started in a duplex's garage in Redwood City Thursday afternoon, a fire battalion chief said.

When firefighters arrived to the 1000 block of Madison Avenue at about 12:45 p.m., they saw flames coming through the roof of the one-story building, Redwood City fire battalion chief Stan Maupin said.

The duplex consists of two units separated by a garage area, where it appears the fire started, Maupin said.
The blaze was contained to the garage and was under control in about 45 minutes, he said.

No one was injured, but a few residents will be staying with relatives until the duplex is deemed habitable, Maupin said. One of the units was vacant at the time of the fire.

The extent of damage is unknown, but investigators were on the scene to determine the fire's cause.

Forty-six firefighters responded, and the response included eight engines and two ladder trucks.

Crews from the Woodside Fire Protection District, Foster City Fire Department, Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department, and Menlo Park Fire Protection District responded to the fire.

The Central County and the South San Francisco fire departments provided medical assistance.
The Bay Area is forecast to be mostly cloudy today, with highs in the upper 50s and west winds of 5 to 15 mph.

It is expected to be partly cloudy this evening, becoming mostly cloudy overnight, with lows around 50 and west winds of 10 to 20 mph.

Saturday is expected to be mostly cloudy, with highs in the mid 50s and west winds of 10 to 20 mph.

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Big Celebration Planned for Golden Gate Bridge's 75th Anniversary

A celebration is planned for Memorial Day weekend 2012 to mark the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th birthday, bridge district officials said today.

Specific plans about the celebration will be unveiled at a news conference Friday morning, on the bridge's 74th anniversary, said Mary Currie, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

Although no special festivities are planned for the bridge's birthday this year, Currie said the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Steering Committee is putting together some exciting events for 2012.

She said the celebration will recall the opening "Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta" at Crissy Field in 1937.

Details will be given at Friday's news conference, at which San Francisco Giants president Larry Baer and Nancy Hellman, chair of the Presidio Trust's board of directors, will speak. 

The news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza Administration Building.
CONTACT: Mary Currie (415) 923-2222, cellphone

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BART Board Approves Purchase of 130 New Tasers

BART's board of directors voted unanimously today to spend up to $141,000 on the purchase of 130 more Tasers to allow all of its police officers to have their own stun guns.

The BART Police Department currently has 60 Tasers, and many officers aren't equipped with the stun guns.

BART staff members said in a report to the board that giving each officer a Taser would increase the officers' comfort level with the weapons.

The issue of officers' training and familiarity with Tasers was raised by lawyers for former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last year for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant after responding to a report of a fight on a train but claimed that he had meant to use his Taser.

Mehserle's lawyers said Mehserle hadn't been properly trained to use a Taser. They said that since Mehserle didn't have his own Taser -- the one he was carrying was borrowed -- he wasn't very familiar the stun guns.

BART staff members stated in their report that Tasers "are an important less-lethal-force option that officers can use when lethal force is not required."

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency will get the new Tasers before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.

Johnson said BART previously had a voluntary policy under which officers could choose whether to carry Tasers, but now all officers will be required to carry Tasers once they get proper training on the devices.

He said there are 206 sworn officer positions in the BART Police Department but that normally there are five to 10 positions that aren't filled.

BART staff members say each Taser costs $815 plus an additional $185 for a four-year extended warranty. Shipping and handling for 130 Tasers costs $400.
CONTACT: BART spokesman Linton Johnson (510) 464-7139

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San Francisco Police Department to Celebrate Retirement of Two Horses Saturday

A special retirement ceremony is planned Saturday for two four-footed members of the San Francisco Police Department.

Hawk and Hunter, two horses in the Police Department's mounted unit, are leaving the force to spend the rest of their days at a ranch in Sonoma County, police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Hawk, a 25-year-old American Quarter Horse, started working at the department in 1998, while Hunter, an 18-year-old American Quarter Horse, started in 2004.

Unlike their human counterparts, there is no mandatory retirement age for the horses. Rather, the decision to retire them usually comes after consultation with a veterinarian, Dangerfield said.

The retirement ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will be held at the Police Department's horse stables on James Bloesch Road, located near 36th Avenue and John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park.
CONTACT: San Francisco police (415) 553-1651

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Bay Area Scores Well in Annual Beach Report Card

Most Bay Area beaches earned a clean bill of health in this year's 21st-annual report card that rates the sandy spots.

About 84 percent of the seaside locations received an A grade on an A through F scale administered by Heal the Bay, a nonprofit that analyzed weekly bacterial pollution from hundreds of beaches across California.

The Beach Report Card gave slightly lower marks this year than in 2010, when 85 percent of Bay Area beaches were awarded an A. But the numbers this year are still "on par" with earlier grades, according to Heal the Bay.

A few other Bay Area beaches also registered as pollution hotspots.

San Mateo County received D grades for summer activities at its Aquatic Park and Lakeshore Park. Both beaches suffer from limited circulation, according to Heal the Bay.

San Francisco's Baker Beach was listed on the report card's "Beach Bummer" list, which ranks the most polluted shorelines in the state. The beach sits on the terminus of a creek, which creates a lot of opportunities for bacteria to congregate there, the group found.

Also on the "Beach Bummer" list this year was Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz County, which ranked No. 1. Baker Beach was No. 8.

Capitola Beach, which is also in Santa Cruz County, ranked No. 10 on the "Beach Bummer" list. The remaining 11 beaches beyond Cowell and Capitola received A and B grades in Santa Cruz County this year, according to Heal the Bay.

The report card analyzed 445 beaches in California between April 2010 and March 2011.

More information about the report card can be found at Heal the Bay's website at www.healthebay.org.
CONTACT: James Alamillo, Heal the Bay (310) 936-5489

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May 28, 2011

A San Francisco judge dismissed 26 more felony cases Friday involving plainclothes police officers who allegedly lied about the circumstances of drug searches and arrests or stole from suspects, bringing the number of...

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For the last time, San Francisco students filed through the doors of Willie Brown Jr. College Preparatory Academy on Friday morning and past a banner that declared the public school a place "where students' dreams come...

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Treasure hunters will gain another stomping ground this weekend with the opening of a new flea market. Treasure Island Flea will become the Bay Area's fourth large market - the second to open in a year - reflecting a...

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May 27, 2011

@MLNow: Good Morning Mission! 05.26.11 Enterprise zones for all, I/O Ventures helps startups-us? and Posterous bares it all. … More @MLNow: Valencia Vacancies and New Venues – Restaurants Galore http://ow.ly/53LBy … More @MLNow: Supervisor Scott Wiener Says It’s OK if You Think He’s Boring http://ow.ly/53ZNg … More @MLNow: SNAP: Disco Found http://ow.ly/542cP … More @MLNow:...

May 26, 2011

The Giants are helping fans reach out to their injured catcher.

A Bay Area congressman wants to change the IRS tax code to better favor California's medical marijuana dispensaries.

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He'll just get back to reforming the the city's social, political, and infrastructural transit networks. And then he'll do something else really hard.

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Valencia Street is in flux, with seven new restaurants opening within the next few months, including Pizza by Farina; Mexican restaurant Tacolicious; an Asian restaurant from the owners of Thai House Express; Indian restaurant Amber Dara; Cyan, a Greek, Egyptian and Turkish restaurant; The Chapel, an upscale restaurant serving New Orleans and Southern food; and...

(05-26) 06:21 PDT San Francisco, CA (AP) -- In a reversal of its long-standing policy, the San Francisco public transit agency will allow bikes aboard its buses, light rail cars and streetcars. Bikes that fold that is....

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@MLNow: Middle School Blues. And Rock. And Rhythm. http://ow.ly/52ShW … More @MLNow: 18 More Condos Proposed for Valencia – http://bit.ly/mJXB61 … More @MLNow: Fostering Fatherhood One Step at a Time http://ow.ly/538QI … More @MLNow: SNAP: Sun or Rain God on San Carlos? http://ow.ly/53932 … More @MLNow: Snap: Rambo Lives Here http://ow.ly/53aEa … More @MLNow: Mission...

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