Not guilty plea in alleged random SF killing
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco prosecutors say the defendant in the alleged random slaying of a university student was hunting for a victim before the attack.
Assistant District Attorney Scot Clark made the comments on Wednesday, as 30-year-old Nikhom Thephakaysone was arraigned on murder and other charges. He pleaded not guilty.
Clark said Thephakaysone stuck a handgun in another man's back earlier on the night last month that he killed 20-year-old Justin Valdez. Clark said he did not pull the trigger, but then went on the hunt for a victim for at least an hour and 15 minutes afterward, at one point waving a gun outside a Thai restaurant.
Thephakaysone is accused of shooting Valdez, a San Francisco State University student, in the back as Valdez exited a light-rail car in the city.
DRUG WEBSITE SHUTDOWN
Feds arrest San Francisco man in underground drugs website
NEW YORK (AP) — Court records indicate that a hidden website operated by a 29-year-old San Francisco man became a vast black market bazaar that brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs and services.
The criminal complaint released in New York accuses Ross Ulbricht of being the mastermind and charged him with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering. A separate indictment in Maryland accused him in a failed murder-for-hire scheme.
The website, Silk Road, allowed users to anonymously make purchases using the electronic currency Bitcoin.
Federal authorities shut the site down and arrested Ulbricht on Tuesday afternoon in a branch of San Francisco's public library. Authorities say Ulbricht was online on his laptop chatting with a cooperating witness when he was arrested.
Calif. health exchange back online after upgrades
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Online enrollment is available for California's new health insurance exchange after technical glitches on the system's opening day forced overnight upgrades.
Covered California spokesman Roy Kennedy says the enrollment portion of the exchange website was taken offline from 8:30 p.m. Tuesday until 10:45 a.m. Wednesday. He said pages were loading slowly and that logos for insurance plans were not displaying correctly.
Consumers were still able to browse insurance plan options while the enrollment pages were being fixed.
Interest from Californians appeared high after the exchange opened for business Tuesday. Kennedy says 7,700 Californians began applications for insurance coverage.
The state's two call centers received more than 23,000 calls, and there were more than 5.7 million hits on the website by Tuesday afternoon.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY-ROBBERY
Habitat for Humanity crew robbed at gunpoint
(Information in the following story is from: The Oakland Tribune, http://www.oaklandtribune.com)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Police say a group of workers were robbed at gunpoint at a Habitat for Humanity site where former President Jimmy Carter is scheduled to tour in Oakland.
The Oakland Tribune reports that eight Habitat staff members and AmeriCorps workers were robbed of their cell phones and wallets Tuesday at the Brookfield Court development in East Oakland.
Police say a man was also shot at and pistol-whipped. He refused medical attention.
Habitat spokeswoman Krysta Morgenthaler says four men robbed the workers where 12 townhomes are currently under construction. Another dozen workers were not robbed.
No arrests have been made.
The robbery comes less than a week before Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter are scheduled to visit Oakland and San Jose as part of a weeklong campaign highlighting Habitat for Humanity's home-building projects.
Tesla stock tumbles after Model S catches fire
DETROIT (AP) — An Internet video of a fiery Tesla electric car near Seattle helped to push down the Palo Alto-based company's stock price Wednesday.
Shares of Tesla Motors fell more than 6 percent to $180.95. It was the stock's biggest one-day decline since July 16.
The automobile site Jalopnik.com posted the video that it says was taken by a reader. The video shows the front of a Tesla Model S in flames.
Tesla says the car hit a large metal object in the road on Tuesday, causing significant damage. The driver escaped unharmed and the blaze was put out by firefighters. Tesla says the fire was limited to the front of the $70,000 car.
Tesla shares have risen more than 400 percent since the start of the year.
Stockton manager says bankrupt city needs tax hike
STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Stockton's city manager says the only way the Northern California city can get out of bankruptcy is to raise sales taxes.
Bob Deis said Tuesday that without the three-quarters of a cent sales tax increase on the November ballot, city officials would have to make deeper cuts at the fire department and close libraries and recreation programs.
Deis spoke on the heels of the city's long anticipated bankruptcy plan, which was released last week.
The plan makes no cuts in the city's annual contribution to CalPers, the state pension fund.
Creditors who hold bonds issued to help Stockton meet its pension payments have argued that members of the pension plan should also suffer cuts.
The plan is subject to votes by the City Council, the city's creditors and a judge.
SWITCHING STUDENT TESTS
Brown signs bill ending current standardized tests
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill ending the traditional standardized tests that the state's public school students have taken in reading, math and social science since 1999.
Assembly Bill 484 replaces the pencil-and-paper, multiple-choice tests with new language and math tests that are taken on computers. The new assessments are designed to follow a set of national curriculum standards known as the Common Core.
Because the new test still is under development, schools will be required to give it in grades 3-8 and 11 in either math of language this spring, but not both, and no individual student scores, school performance reports or statewide results would be generated from the rollout.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has threatened to withhold federal funds from the state if it moves forward with the plan.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ABUSE
SJ after-school teacher convicted of molestation
(Information in the following story is from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com)
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A jury has convicted a teacher at a San Jose after-school program of molesting nine young girls under his care.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that jurors found 27-year-old Keith Woodhouse guilty on Tuesday of 30 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14. The conviction could send him to prison for life.
Authorities say Woodhouse touched the girls inappropriately. The girls were enrolled in day-care programs run out of two elementary schools.
Western cuckoo proposed for federal protections
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the yellow-billed cuckoo be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The cuckoo once lived in cottonwoods and willows along rivers and streams across the West.
Dams, grazing and river channelization have reduced its habitat and its range. Today, it can be found mostly along portions of the Sacramento and Kern rivers in California, the Colorado, Verde and San Pedro in Arizona, and the Gila and Rio Grande rivers in New Mexico.
The Center for Biological Diversity entered an agreement with the federal wildlife service in 2011 to speed protections for the birds and 757 other imperiled species.
So far, 117 have been protected and another 65 have been proposed for protections.
The gray cuckoo has white markings and a long tail.