Thursday Morning News Roundup
Facebook Restores Drag Queens’ Suspended Accounts, But Fight Against Legal Name Policy Continues
Facebook officials on Wednesday said they would restore the profiles of San Francisco drag queens and others that had recently been suspended or removed under it’s policy requiring the use of legal names, but only for two weeks.
The announcement came shortly after a group including San Francisco Supervisor David Campos met with Facebook officials at San Francisco City Hall to discuss the far-reaching implications of the social network’s policy against pseudonyms and to urge the tech giant not to lock people out of their accounts if they choose not to use their legal names.
The move does not signal a change in the legal names policy, however, and the previously suspended users will still be asked to confirm their real identity, change to their legal names or move to a fan page.
San Francisco drag queens including Sister Roma, Heklina, BeBe Sweetbriar and Lil Miss Hot Mess are protesting the crackdown on profile names and recently launched the hashtag #MyNameIs on social media to increase awareness about Facebook’s policy.
The drag queens said that in recent weeks they had been kicked off their accounts and could only regain access if they listed their legal name, such as one on a driver’s license or credit card.
Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, posted a statement on her Facebook page Wednesday afternoon decrying Facebook’s response and stating “This is not over!”
“While at first glance this seems like a grand show of support for our community it is actually a completely hollow gesture,” Roma said in the statement.
Roma said the meeting with Facebook helped create a dialogue, but that she wants to see them acknowledge that their policy is misguided. She and others are still hoping for another meeting with Facebook officials who can actually make policy decisions.
She said the policy would “out” people who prefer to use alternate names “to ensure their safety and privacy,” including abused and battered women, bullied teens, political activists and sex workers.
New Insurance Standards For Uber, Lyft Signed Into Law
Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday will set new insurance standards for transportation networking companies like Uber and Lyft based on a compromise reached with the companies last month.
The bill mainly effects periods when drivers for the TNCs — companies that connect paid drivers to passengers through a smartphone app — have their app turned on and are looking for customers but have not yet picked up a passenger.
The issue drew attention in San Francisco earlier this year when Uber driver Syed Muzzafar, 57, struck and killed 6-year-old Sofia Liu the night of Dec. 31.
Uber has continued to argue in court that because Muzzafar was not carrying a passenger during the crash, despite having his Uber app activated, the company was not liable for damages, despite changing its policy to cover drivers during those circumstances.
Insurance policies enacted by Uber and Lyft this year allowed for
$50,000 per injury in an accident with up to $100,000 covered, and $25,000 for property damage while the app was activated but before the driver had picked up a passenger.
Once a passenger was in the car, the policy would go up to $1 million of liability coverage per incident with $50,000 of contingent collision coverage, depending on the driver’s personal policy.
At all other times, the driver’s personal auto insurance policy is in effect.
The bill as originally introduced by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would have required the companies to provide $1 million any time a TNC driver’s app was activated, regardless of whether there was a passenger in the car.
Uber objected strenuously to the bill, calling it in June a “back-room deal by insurance companies and trial attorneys to prematurely force the ridesharing industry to fit their special interests.”
The final version of the bill was reached by compromise with Uber and Lyft and passed by the legislature last month. Its requirements are similar to the policies Uber and Lyft had already voluntarily enacted — $50,000 coverage per injury in anaccident with up to $100,000 covered, and $30,000 for property damage before the driver picks up a passenger. It will take effect next July.
Supervisor Calls For Ballot Measure To Ensure Faster Ambulance Response Times
Lagging ambulance response times in San Francisco led Supervisor London Breed on Tuesday to introduce a request for a ballot measure requiring the fire department to maintain speedy response times for emergency medical services.
Breed, a former fire commissioner, said the measure will be similar to the city’s 2005 Proposition F, which required the city to, among other things, provide adequate staff to respond to all fire, medical and other emergencies and prohibited the reduction of services below a specified level.
Breed’s intention is to accommodate the increased demand on the fire department due to the growing population of the city so that during an emergency, no one has to wait extended periods for services or an ambulance.
“This is a serious ongoing threat to public safety,” Breed said Tuesday.
She said paramedics and firefighters don’t have the tools they need to do their jobs right.
San Francisco fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said she agrees with Breed in that the department’s staffing levels are not sufficiently meeting the growing demand for emergency services.
Talmadge said this is largely due to the fact that from 1981 until 2008, the fire department operated under the San Francisco Exclusive Operating Area, making them responsible for nearly all 911 calls across the city.
In 2008, however, the California Emergency Medical Services Authority rescinded the Exclusive Operating Area, opening the city up to private ambulance companies to help with emergency response.
Then in 2012, the state agency agreed to reestablish the Exclusive Operating Area in San Francisco, but during those previous six years, the department’s emergency medical service positions were not refilled as employees retired, Talmadge said.
Now with the city’s population booming and the city’s Exclusive Operating Area reestablished with only two private ambulance companies authorized to support it, responding to calls has been challenging, according to Talmadge.
“We are trying to staff up to meet the demand,” Talmadge said Wednesday.
Breed said that in August alone, there were 374 cases in which it took more than 20 minutes for ambulances to arrive.
Toddler And Her Mother Recovering After Hit-And-Run Crash
A 2-year-old girl and her mother were recovering Wednesday from what authorities are describing as their miraculous survival of a hit-and-run crash on state Highway 24 in Orinda on Monday night.
The woman, 24-year-old Shuaniya Rogers of Antioch, was apparently driving drunk with her daughter when she crashed her minivan into the center median on eastbound Highway 24 near St. Stephens Drive, California Highway Patrol Officer John Fransen said.
Fransen said Rogers took her daughter out of the car and was crossing the highway on foot when an oncoming Mercedes-Benz sedan struck them and fled the scene.
The two were somehow able to get over to the roadway’s right-hand shoulder, where CHP officers found them a short time later while responding to a report of the minivan crash around 9:50 p.m. Monday, the spokesman said.
Officers arriving on the scene found the minivan empty but heard the 2-year-old girl’s cries from the roadway shoulder and rushed to render aid to the toddler and her mother.
Fransen said medical providers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland reported that the first aid performed by Officers Nate Johnson and Randy Vigus helped them to save the girl’s foot.
Both the child and her mother remained in the hospital on Wednesday and are expected to recover.
“It’s a miracle they both survived being an impact on the freeway,” Fransen said.
“Typically for people who get struck on the freeway, it’s a different story,” he said.
Rogers, who officers believe was intoxicated at the time of the crash, is expected to be arrested on suspicion of DUI and child endangerment.
The driver of the hit-and-run suspect vehicle, described only as a Mercedes sedan with passenger-side damage, remains at large.
Senior Care Home Owners Arrested For Alleged Wage Theft, Tax Fraud
Several owners of senior care homes in Contra Costa County have been arrested after a yearlong investigation uncovered longtime wage fraud that amounted to some workers being paid as little as $4 per hour, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Dozens of caregivers at care homes in Walnut Creek, Brentwood, Concord and Antioch were continuously underpaid, sometimes working for 12 to 16 hours per day for $50 to $80 in wages, according to prosecutors.
Police on Tuesday afternoon arrested care home owners Sara Abraham, 76, Annette Sanchez, 45, and Julio Sanchez, 54, of Abraham Rest Homes Inc. and Sanchez Abraham Corporation, and Florinda Yambao, 61, of Floran White Dove Care Homes, after serving search warrants at their businesses, prosecutors said.
All four were charged in Contra Costa County Superior Court with wage theft, tax and insurance violations.
The defendants owe $2 million to some 60 care home employees, who will be paid $1,002,183 in fines and penalties to be split among them, according to prosecutors.
The business owners’ arrests and charges stem from an investigation launched a year ago by the Contra Costa Insurance Fraud Task Force, which includes representatives from the federal and state labor departments.
The task force began investigating the defendants and the 14 senior care homes they own across the county after the U.S. Department of Labor Relations received complaints.
During the yearlong probe, investigators found that caregivers at the businesses weren’t being paid minimum wage or for overtime.
Based on evidence gathered during the yearlong investigation, investigators are also looking into allegations of wage fraud at Scienn Hall Care Homes. On Tuesday, search warrants were served at the third set of care homes but the owners were not arrested, according to prosecutors.
Murphy said the care homes would be able to remain open “as long as they come into compliance with state and federal wage and tax law.”
Mills Faculty And Students Rally Against Restructuring Program
About 30 students, faculty members, alumni and labor allies held a rally at Mills College in Oakland Wednesday to protest a restructuring effort that has led to layoffs.
Protesters said that after 78 percent of adjunct faculty members at Mills voted in May for form a union with Service Employees International Union Local 1021, Mills President Alecia DeCoudreaux sent an email to faculty and staff announcing budget cuts, layoffs and major changes to departments and programming.
Speakers at the rally said Mills used early retirement incentives and layoffs to eliminate eight full-time staff positions, reduce positions and restructure the entire English department.
Graduate student Garen Hay said he and other students recently formed a group called Mills Action to call for improvements in the working conditions for faculty and staff members as well as maintaining the quality of education for students.
“We want students to have input about their education and make sure there are adequate resources for staff members to they aren’t overworked,” Hay said.
After the rally, protesters delivered to Mills administrators a petition in support of adjunct faculty’s contract negotiations and against the cuts.
SEIU Local 1021 spokeswoman Jennifer Smith-Camejo said the petition calls for reversing the cuts until they are negotiated with the faculty as well as for more faculty input in shaping Mills’ future direction.
Mills Chief of Staff Renee Jadushlever said in a prepared statement, “We continue to address questions from the SEIU in our collaborative negotiations, which have been and continue to be conducted in good faith.”
Jadushlever said, “While organizational restructuring is always difficult, this is not unique to Mills College. Higher education is confronted with budgetary challenges and Mills is addressing them in a responsible and strategic manner.”
San Jose Women Pleads Not Guilty To Leaving Kids In Car At Casino
A San Jose woman pleaded not guilty in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday morning to two felony child endangerment charges alleging she left her two young children in a parked car while she visited the Graton Resort and Casino near Rohnert Park in June.
Maria Mondragon-Barboza, 37, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Nov. 4.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office arrested her June 30 for misdemeanor child endangerment after a deputy saw a small child in the back seat of a Honda on the upper level of a parking structure at the casino.
The 10-year-old girl in the Honda told the deputy her mother left her to care for her 1-year-old brother while she went into the casino, sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
The deputy contacted casino security and brought Mondragon-Barboza to the Honda in about 20 minutes, Focha said.
Mondragon-Barboza told the deputy she was going into the casino for only a few minutes and didn’t want to bring the children because the infant as sleeping.
She was booked into jail for misdemeanor child endangerment and an aunt picked up the children, Focha said. Mondragon-Barboza posted bail and is out of custody.
Prosecutors filed the charges as felonies.
Judge Denies Request By Lawyers For Ex-Supe Shirakawa To Delay Trial On Felony Charge
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied a request by attorneys for former county Supervisor George Shirakawa to have his trial on a felony false impersonation charge postponed to as late at next February, accordingto a prosecutor.
Judge Vanessa Zecher, at a hearing in the Hall of Justice in San Jose attended by Shirakawa, found no good cause for the continuance requested by his attorneys Jay Rorty and Bicka Barlow, Deputy District Attorney John Chase.
Shirakawa’s attorneys said that due to other legal obligations and vacation time, they wanted to push the trial back to as far as the end of February, but the judge’s denial of their motion means the trial could begin next month, Chase said.
The next hearing in Shirakawa’s case is Friday, when Judge Griffin Bonini will consider defense motions to dismiss an indictment handed down by a grand jury against Shirakawa last October and to quash a search warrant prosecutors used last year to find evidence against the defendant at his San Jose home, Chase said.
Shirakawa, a former supervisor, board president and San Jose city councilman, was indicted on a charge of felony false impersonation for allegedly printing and mailing fraudulent election campaign flyers during a San Jose City Council race in 2010
According to prosecutors, Shirakawa fashioned and distributed the flyers to discredit candidate Magdalena Carrasco, who was running in council District 5 against Xavier Campos, a former employee of Shirakawa, who had endorsed Campos.
Printed on the flyers was a campaign group name “Neighbors for Magdalena Carrasco for Council 2010,” which prosecutors said Shirakawa impersonated.
The flyers contained a color graphic of a Communist flag and were targeted towards voters in the district of Vietnamese descent to make it appear that Carrasco had ties to communism in a community where many resented the North Vietnamese communist regime, prosecutors said.
Man Shot During Attempted Robbery Of Cellphone In Bayview District
A man found injured in San Francisco’s Bayview District Wednesday night appears to have been shot during an attempted robbery of his cell phone, according to police.
Police said they were called to the 1200 block of Hollister Street around 10 p.m. on a report of a shooting.
An adult male with a gunshot wound to the upper body was located in the area and taken to a hospital for treatment. He is expected to survive his injuries.
The suspect or suspects fled the area, and anyone with information on this shooting is asked to call police.
Sheriff’s Deputies Search For Man Who Exposed Himself To Females On Two Occasions
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is investigating two reports of a man flashing his genitals and masturbating in front of females near a beach area south of Santa Cruz, officials said Wednesday.
On August 18, a woman told deputies she was hiking past a county sanitation facility on Lode Street by Moran Lake Beach in the Live Oak area at about 7 a.m. when she saw a man sitting on the trail exposing and sexually gratifying himself, Sgt. Kelly Kent said.
The suspect then turned and left the unincorporated county area,
The man, described as Caucasian, about 20 years old, 5 feet 7 inches in height, clean-shaven with medium length hair and wearing dark clothing, fled the area before deputies could locate him, according to Kent.
Then on Sept. 12, at 7:07 a.m., deputies were dispatched to 22795 E. Cliff Drive in the area of Moran Lake Beach on a report by a female jogger who said a man exposed his genitals and masturbated himself towards her, according to Kent.
The woman was in the same general area as the first incident, behind the Lode Street sanitation facility on trails between 30th Avenue and Moran Lake, and told deputies that the man fled after she informed him she was calling the sheriff’s office, deputies said.
The jogger said that the man looked like a Caucasian male adult with a dark complexion or a Hispanic male in his 30s, about 6 feet 2 inches tall with a normal build and wearing a red plaid hooded jacket.
Deputies increased patrols of the area and obtained a surveillance video from the sanitation facility showing the suspect in the Sept. 12 incident running from the scene, Kent reported.
The sheriff’s office believes that the same person was involved in both incidents even though the victims’ descriptions of him differ, according to Kent.
One Injured When Train Crashes Into Truck, Scattering Thousands Of Pounds Of Potatoes
An Amtrak train crashed into a semi-truck early Wednesday in southern Monterey County, injuring one person and scattering thousands of pounds of potatoes, sheriff’s deputies reported.
At 12:59 a.m. Wednesday, the train was heading south near Sergeant Canyon Road and Dead Mans Gulch Road south of the unincorporated area of San Ardo when the semi-truck attempted to cross the tracks, according to deputies.
The driver of the truck, which was hauling a large amount of potatoes, was unable to cross the tracks and the train slammed into it, deputies said.
One person was transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries, according to deputies.
The force of the crash flung thousands of pounds of potatoes out of the truck and damaged the train, deputies said.
Vehicle Crashes Into Potrero Hill Yellow Cab Parking Lot
A car went over an embankment and crashed into a Yellow Cab parking lot Wednesday evening in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, according to police.
The collision was reported around 5:30 p.m. in the area of Texas and 25th streets, police said.
The vehicle went over an embankment at the top of Texas and went down toward the parking lot.
The driver, the vehicle’s sole occupant, was able to get out on his own and was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, police said.
The collision remains under investigation.
Man Is Charged With Murder In Fatal Shooting On Bancroft Avenue
A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of another man in East Oakland on Sunday morning, according to prosecutors.
Miguel Salinas was arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday but authorities didn’t release his name until Wednesday. He was scheduled to return to court Wednesday to be assigned an attorney.
Salinas is charged with the killing of Reginald Beamon, a 28-year-old Oakland man who was found shot to death in the 8200 block of Bancroft Avenue at about 6:16 a.m. on Sunday.
BODY OF MALE FOUND OFF OYSTER POINT
A male body was pulled from the waters of San Francisco Bay Wednesday afternoon near Oyster Point, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit was called to retrieve the body from a point around 1 1/2 miles east of Oyster Point around 2:30 p.m., officials said.
They found a male subject wearing a black t-shirt and jeans floating face down in the water.
The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office took custody of the body and will work to identify the deceased subject, officials said.
Odor From Clogged Sewer Drain Causes Evacuation Of Target Store
Employees were evacuated from a Target store in Petaluma Wednesday morning because of a sulfur-type odor, a fire captain said.
Firefighters responded around 9:50 a.m. to a report of an employee having a medical problem at the store at 401 Kenilworth Drive, Petaluma fire Capt. and Acting Battalion Chief Jude Prokop said.
Additional ambulances and fire personnel responded after a 911 dispatcher was told there was a sulfur-type odor in a storage room and more employees needed assistance, Prokop said.
Fire crews evacuated the store and set up a field treatment area for patients. The store was closed while fire crews investigated the cause of the smell, Prokop said.
The odor was traced to a janitorial area in the rear storage area and the fire department’s hazardous materials team checked the area with gas monitors.
The odor was found to be coming from a malfunctioning sewer drain, Prokop said.
No toxic or harmful gases or public safety hazards were found, he said.
The fire department’s medical team evaluated 40 employees. Four patients were treated and released at the scene, Prokop said.
The store manager arranged to repair the sewer drain and the store was ventilated and reopened.
Woman Assaulted, Robbed As She Placed Groceries In Vehicle
Morgan Hill police are on the lookout for a man who pushed and robbed a woman of her purse Monday while she was putting groceries away in her vehicle, police said Wednesday.
At 7:15 p.m. Monday, the woman was in the parking lot of a market on Tennant Station Way in Morgan Hill and while placing her groceries in her vehicle, she heard a man say something to her from behind, police said.
She turned around to see what the man wanted and he demanded her purse. The woman told him “No” and the suspect pushed her to the ground, reached into her vehicle, snatched her purse and fled, according to police.
The victim described the suspect as a Hispanic man in his 20s who is about 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 140 to 160 pounds with dark short hair and sideburns, had a diamond earring in his right ear and wore blue jeans, police said.
A male witness told police he watched the suspect drive away in a bright blue Honda with custom black wheels and chrome on the outside, police said.
Police are talking to witnesses and reviewing surveillance video.