<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - National & International News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com en-us Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:43:09 -0400 Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:43:09 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NY Building Collapses, Sparks Fire After Explosion]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:35:21 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/east+village+fire+explosion.jpg

Construction workers inside a sushi restaurant in the East Village accidentally hit a gas line, causing an explosion that injured 19 people, sparked a massive fire and caused three buildings to collapse, law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York.

The explosion inside 121 Second Ave., between East 7th Street and St. Marks Place, caused the buildings at 121, 123 and 119 to collapse after they became engulfed in flames, according to city officials. No. 125 was still burning Thursday evening.

The approximately 250 firefighters on the scene have managed to contain the 7-alarm fire to those four buildings, and are expected to stay "for a very long night," said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. 

"The initial impact appears to have been caused by plumbing and gas work that was occurring inside 121 Second Avenue," said Mayor de Blasio at a news conference Thursday evening detailing the explosion that injured at least 14 civilians and five emergency responders. 

Officials say four of the civilians were critically injured, and seven others had minor to non-life threatening injuries. Three others were evaluated on the scene and didn't need medical attention. 

The most critical patients have respiratory burn, according to officials, which is different from smoke inhalation and is caused by the inhalation of hot gas or burning particles that result in tissue damage to the respiratory system. 

Four firefighters and an EMS responder had minor injuries, officials said. 

All firefighters were accounted for after the explosion, the FDNY said. De Blasio said there have been no reports of additional missing persons, but urged concerned relatives or friends to call 311.

There were no calls to either 911 or Con Ed reporting any type of gas leak or concerns before the explosion, de Blasio said.

However, shortly before the blast, Con Ed inspectors were at the site to evaluate work the building plumbers was doing in connection with a gas service upgrade, according to Con Ed President John McAvoy.

Con Ed said the restaurant was swapping a single gas meter for multiple gas meters as part of a renovation, but the work failed the inspection, partly because there was insufficient spacing for a new gas meter in the basement. The inspectors gave instructions on what changes were needed, then left. 

About an hour later, a worker who opened a door to a closed area of the kitchen smelled gas and tried to start an evacuation, according to a source close to the investigation. That's when the explosion occurred.

Huge flames were shooting out of the front of the buildings at the height of the blaze, and thick plumes of white smoke could be seen billowing from the structures in the tightly packed, business-heavy neighborhood.

The flames and smoke could be seen from at least 20 blocks north, and the smell of smoke was detected as far north as midtown, including at the NBC offices at Rockefeller Center.

People were seen laying on the ground in front of the restaurant, apparently unconscious, immediately following the explosion, multiple witnesses told NBC 4 New York.

A neighbor who lives on Second Avenue and East 7th Street told NBC 4 New York he was home when he heard a loud explosion that "shook everything."

"When I went outside, I saw people running and broken glass everywhere," said the neighbor, David Hollands. 

Others described hearing something like a bomb or a car crashing through a store. 

Hollands said the storefront at 121 Second Ave. was entirely blown out, with glass strewn over 200 feet. He said within two minutes, at least 20 fire trucks rushed to the scene.

Hollands' building and others nearby were evacuated, and firefighters continued to push back residents further away as the collapse danger zone expanded. 

Another witness, Lorne Colon, said he saw the "entire building explode" and that there were "definitely people inside the restaurant." 

"Within minutes, there were hundreds of people on the street," said Colon. 

A resident at 124 Second Ave. across the street, Larry Gregory, said he saw several people laying on the sidewalk in front the restaurant after the "loudest explosion I've ever heard in my life" and that others "were running around in a panic." 

Several people rushed to the buildings to help trapped or distressed residents, multiple witnesses said. One neighbor on the block and the manager of nearby Dallas BBQ restaurant separately recounted watching a civilian help a woman down from a fire escape on one of the collapsed buildings before firefighters arrived. One Twitter user also captured the rescue:

Gregory, the neighbor across the street, said acrid smoke was permeating the neighborhood in the aftermath of the explosion. 

Fire radio transmissions captured by Broadcastify.com reveal the collapse threat firefighters faced as they "made extremely dangerous searches" for people possibly trapped inside, according to Nigro. 

One radio dispatch could be heard: "All incoming units are advised not to enter the building at all. We're going to pull them out of the building and off the rooftop. All units responding to Box 436, remain outside the building. Do not respond." 

"The first two floors of 121 are totally collapsed. It's a five-story, non-fireproof building. We're totally involved with fire at this time," another dispatch stated minutes later. 

Con Edison were shutting down gas service in the area as a precaution. 

During the restaurant renovation at 121 Second Ave., gas service was supposed to be cut off, according to Con Ed officials, so investigators are now looking into what fueled the explosion. The utility said it was looking into whether gas complaints were filed there recently. 

The private contractors doing the work inside the restaurant have not been identified.

The Red Cross has set up a relief center for affected neighbors at PS 63, at 121 E. 23rd St. 

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito said a crew will be working to get rid of as much debris from the explosion -- like the splintered wood, bricks and glass -- as quickly as possible. 

Esposito urged neighbors to keep their windows closed and to limit their time outside as much as possible. Those with respiratory or heart conditions should remain especially alert to conditions and seek medical attention immediately if they feel discomfort. 

An NYPD unit was seen setting up an air quality monitor at the scene. 

The explosion comes a week after the one-year anniversary of the East Harlem explosion that leveled two buildings and killed eight people. The blast also injured dozens of people and left many homeless for months. 

Since the 2014 explosion, the FDNY has been given a much greater role in responding to reports of possible gas leaks and New Yorkers are now encouraged to call 911 about gas leaks and odors rather than 311. 

<![CDATA[Plane Crash in French Alps: By the Numbers]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:18:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/germanwings-crash-467413136.jpg

A Germanwings co-pilot is believed to have deliberately crashed his plane into a mountain in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing 150 people, including a woman and her mother from northern Virginia and an American man reportedly living in Barcelona.

Germanwings flight 4U 9525 was less than an hour into its route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, alone in the cockpit, locked the pilot out of the cockpit and crashed it, officials said Thursday. He apparently wanted to “destroy the plane,” a prosecutor said.

Yvonne Selke, a government contractor, and her daughter Emily, a recent Drexel University graduate, were both killed, their family said. So was Robert Oliver Calvo, a 37-year-old American man reportedly living in Barcelona, his father said.

Here is a brief look at the crash by the numbers.

27: The age of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot authorities say intentionally crashed the Germanwings plane after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.

630: Number of flight hours co-pilot Lubitz had logged with Germanwings before the crash.

1: Number of crew members in the cockpit when the Germanwings jet crashed.

2: Number of crew members required in the cockpit at all times on United States airlines' flights. When one pilot uses the restroom, a flight attendant takes the pilot's place in the cockpit temporarily. Many international carriers, Lufthansa's Germanwings among them, have no such protocol.

1: Number of black boxes so far recovered. Investigators have retrieved cockpit voice recordings from it that led them to believe the co-pilot had deliberately crashed the plane.

150: Number of people aboard the jet — 144 passengers and six crew members, including Lubitz. All are dead.

3: Number of Americans on board — Yvonne and Emily Selke, and Robert Oliver Calvo.

2: Number of babies included in the passenger count.

16: Number of 10th-graders from a German high school who were on the plane, along with their two teachers.

38,000: The altitude at which the plane was cruising just before it began its descent and crashed.

8: The number of minutes the plane descended steadily before crashing.

6,550: The approximate altitude of the Alpine site where the plane crashed, near the town of Digne in the French Alps.

More than 6,000: The number of hours the plane's captain had logged on the plane.

24: The age of the plane in years.

46,700: The number of flights the plane had made before its crash.

About 58,300: The number of flight hours the aircraft accumulated since it was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991.

1953: The year an Air France plane crashed near the site of the Germanwings crash, near the town of Barcelonette, killing 49 people.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Suicide by Plane? Past Intentional Crashes]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:09:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP962082083139_3_Germanwings.jpg

The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet that crashed in the French Alps this week apparently brought down the plane deliberately, killing all 150 people aboard, officials said Thursday, as Tuesday's tragedy took a horrifying turn.

Andreas Lubitz, 27, appears to have intentionally flown the plane into the side of a mountain while he was alone at the controls, while the plane's pilot pounded on the locked cockpit door, officials said flight recordings showed.

Deliberate crashes of commercial passenger jets, while rare, are believed to have occurred before. Here are some of the most well-known of them. 

2013 — Mozambique Airlines Flight TM470
Bound for Angola from Mozambique, this flight went down in heavy rain in Namibia on Nov. 29, 2013. Mozambique aviation experts said they believed the crash, which killed all 33 people on board, was intentional. The pilot, Hermino dos Santos Fernandes, locked himself in the cockpit and refused to let the co-pilot back in until just before the plane hit the ground, the BBC reported.

1999 — EgyptAir Flight 990
This plane crashed into the ocean en route from New York City to Cairo on Oct. 31, 1999, killing all 203 passengers, four crew members and 10 flight attendants. A National Transportation Safety Board report released two years later blamed co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti’s "manipulation of the airplane controls"; U.S. investigators said he cut power to the engines, turned the plane down and repeated the phrase, "I rely on God." He had been demoted hours before the trip over accusations of sexual misconduct, The New York Times reported. Egypt's aviation authority charged, however, that American investigators had failed to consider evidence supporting the possibility that multiple failures in the airplane’s elevator control system may have caused the crash.

1997 — SilkAir Flight 185
A SilkAir airplane crashed into a river shortly after leaving the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Dec. 19, 1997, killing all 104 people on board. American investigators believe that the pilot acted deliberately, the BBC reported. The investigators said the pilot, Tsu Way Ming, did not try to stop the plane’s nosedive. In addition, the cockpit voice box recorder appeared to have been disconnected. An Indonesian investigation was not conclusive.

1994 — Royal Air Maroc Flight 630
All 44 people aboard a turboprop were killed when a captain deliberately flew the plane into a North African mountainside on Aug. 21, 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported. The co-pilot could be heard screaming, "Mayday, mayday, the pilot is..." The captain had disconnected the autopilot, according to Moroccan officials, and newspaper reports suggested he was upset over a love affair. The flight union disputes those findings.

1982 — Japan Air Lines Flight 350
A Japan Air Lines captain crashed his plane into the ocean on its approach to Tokyo on Feb. 9, 1982. His fellow crew members struggled with him in the cockpit, The New York Times reported, but 24 of the 174 people on board died. Days afterward, the airline's president said the pilot had had a "psychosomatic illness" in 1980 but had later been found fit to return to duty.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Father Helped Officer Son Escape]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:39:06 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/03-26-15_Solis-Mexico-Arrest.jpg

The father of ex-LAPD officer Henry Solis was arrested Thursday for allegedly helping his son evade authorities when he was wanted for the murder of a California man.

Victor Solis, 53, allegedly told investigators that he drove his son to El Paso and dropped him off at a bus station the day after the murder, but no longer knows where his son is.

But surveillance images released Thursday by the FBI show Victor and Henry Solis crossing the border into Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico from El Paso, Texas on March 14, the day after the murder.

Victor Solis at some point returned to the U.S.

Henry Solis, 27, is accused of murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr. in Pomona earlier this month after a fight. Solis allegedly chased Rodriguez after the altercation and shot him several times, killing him.

A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Solis, a former Marine and rookie LAPD officer. Solis had been with the LAPD since June 2014 and was terminated from the department after the murder charges were filed.

He should be considered armed and dangerous and a suicide risk, according to the FBI.

The elder Solis was arrested in Lancaster and appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, where he waived his right to proceedings in Los Angeles. He is being transferred to El Paso.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Federal Bureau of Investigations]]>
<![CDATA[Top News Photos of the Week]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 08:59:07 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/AP447122345256_0_Yemen.jpg View weekly updates on the very best photos in domestic and foreign news.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Military Members Fire Back Online at ISIS]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:00:53 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/ISIS4.jpg

Veterans and military members have fired back on social media following threats made by ISIS targeting specific armed forces members.

A group called the Islamic State Hacking Division issued a threat earlier this week online against 100 service members.

In the threat, the group asked that attacks be carried out against members of the military conducting airstrikes on ISIS.

Now, some service members are arming themselves with strong words.

A user posted on Twitter a picture of ISIS fighters with the caption: “We are going to kill you” beneath a photo of Marines with the quote, “Hurry we eat chow at 1630.”

Another online post with a photo of a heavily armed soldier read: “Friends help friends kill ISIS.”

A few local residents expressed similar sentiments on NBC 7’s Facebook page. Brandon Garcia wrote: “If they can get through my door I’m hungry for some hand-to-hand combat.”

Another Facebook user, Derek James, wrote: “Add me. I’ll give them my address! I wanna play!”

The response to the online threats from ISIS is not a surprise to Nathan Fletcher, a Marine veteran and Truman National Security Project board member.

“Americans don’t react well to being bullied and service members in particular,” he said.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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<![CDATA[Former UNC Coach, Dean Smith, Leaves $200 to Former Players]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:45:25 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/80261754.jpg

Every letter winner who played for former North Carolina basketball coach, Dean Smith, was granted with a heart-warming suprise a month after his death: $200 dollars from his estate.

A letter sent to 180 players was sent from Smith's trustee, stating: "Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, Coach wanted to reach out to each of his letterman. Accordingly, Coach directed that following his passing each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar ($200.00) check with the message 'enjoy a dinner out, compliments of Coach Dean Smith.'

Smith, who died at age 83 last month, went 879-254 in his years at North Carolina, landing him in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983. However, Smith was also known for the compassion he had for his players.

In 1965, Smith helped a black North Carolina graudation student, Howard Lee, purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood during segregations. A year later, Smith intergrated the Tar Heels, recruiting Charlie Scott, who became the first African-American scholarship player in the school's history.

Serge Zwikker, who played for Smith from 1993-1997, told ESPN: "My wife opened the letter and handed it to me. At first  I didn't know what it was, but when it hit me, it put a tear in my eye. Even after he passed, he was still all about this players."

<![CDATA[Captive Owl Video Sparks Outrage]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:35:49 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/vod-web-owl.jpg Florida Fish & Wildlife officers investigate a viral video showing man driving drunk with a federally protected Great Horned Owl in his car, then threatening to eat it. Brian Entin from NBC station WPTV reports.]]> <![CDATA[Wisconsin Basketball Player Accidentally Admits Crush]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:13:37 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Screen-Shot-2015-03-26-at-5.37.13-PM.jpg

Cattywampus. Onomatopoeia. Antidisestablishmentarianism. For Nigel Hayes, University of Wisconsin  basketball forward, these are the words of a modern love letter.

Hayes answered reporters covering the NCAA March Madness tournament with these arbitrary words in a press conference a couple days ago, stumping everyone in the room.  Hayes originally joked that he wanted to break up the monotony of the stenographer’s job with some unique words.

A reporter kicked off the latest news conference asking Hayes if he wanted to say anything to the stenographer, Debra Bollman, before they began, in which he responded: “syzygy”.

A hot mic then picked up Hayes whispering to his teammate, “God, she’s beautiful.” His eyes lit up when he heard laughter in the room. He asked Bollman, “Did you hear that?” She responded “yes” before Hayes covered his face with his hands in embarrassment.

While it's not yet known whether Hayes’ “soliloquy” will help him get a date with Bollman, he can at least say he's made her day more interesting.

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<![CDATA[Americans Plotted to Help ISIS: DOJ]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:39:36 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/160*123/handcufss+steel.jpg

A U.S. Army National Guard soldier and his cousin have been charged with conspiring to support ISIS, federal prosecutors say.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, and Jonas Edmonds, 29, both from the suburban Chicago community of Aurora, are accused of plotting to provide material support and resources to the terror organization, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon announced Thursday.

They also allegedly planned to use Army uniforms and military knowledge to attack a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois.

According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, the pair allegedly devised a plan in late 2014 for Hasan Edmonds to travel overseas and use his military training to fight on behalf of ISIS. As part of the plan, Hasan Edmonds booked a flight scheduled to leave Wednesday from Chicago and arrive in Cairo Thursday.

Both men also met with an FBI undercover employee to present a plot to carry out an armed attack against the military facility where Hasan Edmonds had been training, according to the complaint. As part of the plan, Jonas Edmonds and the undercover officer would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and his knowledge of the facility to access the grounds and target officers for the attack.

“Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin said in a statement.

Hasan Edmonds was arrested at Midway Airport during an attempt to fly to Egypt, and Jonas Edmonds was arrested at his home in Aurora, prosecutors say. Both were charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

"We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence," said U.S. Attorney Fardon. "Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice."

Conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"Upon learning of the investigation, our effortsand priorities focused on ensuring the safety of our Soldiers, Airmen, and their Families," said Brad Leighton, public affairs director for the Illinois National Guard. "We have remained in communication with federal authorities throughout the process, which culminated in the arrest by federal officers of Hasan Rasheed Edmonds last night."

<![CDATA[Ebola Patient at NIH Critical]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:48:14 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NIHClinic.jpg

An American healthcare worker infected with Ebola has been ungraded from critical to serious condition, hospital officials announced Thursday.

The patient was flown to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, from Sierra Leone earlier this month. Days after he or she was admitted, health officials said the patient's condition had deteriorated from serious to critical condition.

The agency said in a statement Thursday that the patient's status had improved, but no additional details about the patient were shared.

The patient, a clinician working with Partners in Health, a Boston-based nonprofit, had been volunteering at an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone when he or she contracted the disease.

The patient's name, age and gender have not been released.

The NIH Clinical Center's Special Clinical Studies Unit (SCSU) is designed for high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by specialists in infectious diseases and critical care, the NIH said.

The patient is the second to be treated for Ebola at NIH. Last fall, Texas nurse Nina Pham was treated there after contracting the disease while treating the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S.

Photo Credit: NIH Clinical Center
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<![CDATA[WATCH: New Anti-Smoking Ads Highlight Pain, Suffering]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:51:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/smoking-stock-generic-73160938.jpg

Smokers are once again sharing their gruesome stories of pain and suffering to motivate cigarette-puffing peers to quit.

“If I’d had a crystal ball many years ago, I would never have put that first cigarette in my mouth," one woman who is losing vision due to macular degeneration says in a new video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The cautionary tales are part of a national tobacco education campaign from the CDC, Tips From Former Smokers, which first launched in March 2012. The often cringe-worthy advertisements, on television, radio, billboards, online and in theaters, magazines and newspapers, feature former smokers sharing their painful stories of smoking-related illnesses, the agency said in a release.

In one video, a woman lies on her hospital bed, and in raspy voice, says how she developed throat cancer at the age of 40. In another, a man, with a hole in his neck, informs viewers to stand away from the showerhead. And another woman, sitting at her kitchen table, advises to suction out her tube before eating.

The ads will also highlight how quitting smoking can benefit loved ones, and the importance of quitting completely, not just cutting down on smoking.

“These former smokers are helping save tens of thousands of lives by sharing their powerful stories of how smoking has affected them,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, said in a statement. “These new real-life ads will help smokers quit, adding years to their lives and life to their years.”

Since 2012, Tips has helped millions of smokers try to quit, the CDC reports. When the CDC’s 2014 campaign aired, nearly 80 percent more people called the national quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, for free help. Over 500,000 additional calls to the toll-free hotline have been made since 2012.

“All the Tips ad participants are heroes,” said Tim McAfee, senior medical officer in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “By courageously sharing their painful personal stories, they’re inspiring millions of Americans to make the life-saving decision to quit smoking.”

Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, the CDC reports, and remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the country. For every American who dies from smoking-related illnesses, nearly 30 more suffer from at least one smoking-related illness.

Photo Credit: FILE/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blame Neighbors for Drought: Poll]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:08:35 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/generic-sprinklers.jpg

The majority of Californians say their neighbors are failing to do enough to respond to the state's severe drought, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute.

Two-thirds of residents surveyed, 66 percent, said people in their part of the state are not doing their share when it comes to water conservation and drought-relief measures. About 24 percent said their neighbors are doing just enough and 6 percent said they were doing too much, according to the poll.

"The ongoing drought is raising concerns about the long-term water supply," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. "Most Californians think their neighbors could be doing more to save water today."

The poll, released Wednesday, showed that 66 percent of those surveyed believe their regional water supply is a "big problem," near a record high of 68 percent in October. The problem seemed most urgent in the Central Valley, the heart of California's agricultural operations, where 76 percent said the water supply is a major problem.

When asked about the most important issue facing California, poll participants were just about as likely to indicate water and the drought as they were jobs and the economy. Those issues were much higher priorities than education and immigration, according to the poll.

More than 93 percent of the state is under severe drought, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report, which categorizes drought into five levels of severity -- abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. Nearly 42 percent of California is under exceptional drought, an increase of nearly 2 percentage points over last week.

One year ago, 24 percent of the state was under exceptional drought.

The state's critically low reservoirs received little relief this winter as California nears the end of its wet season. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where springtime water runoff benefits an estimated 25 million Californians, precipitation since October is 10 inches below normal.

The poll comes a week after the governor, who declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and called on residents to reduce water use by 20 percent, announced a plan to accelerate funding for water projects. That $1 billion proposal to speed up spending and offer about $75 million in immediate aid to residents and wildlife was sent to the governor's desk Thursday.

The legislation accelerates water infrastructure spending, some of which can boost local water supplies in future years. It includes $267 million to give out grants for water-recycling projects and expand drinking water in small and poor cities.

Earlier this month, the State Water Resources Control Board extended and expanded restrictions on water use, admitting that its actions so far have been focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. Members voted to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

New rules will require local water departments to restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don't, residents must follow a state rule limiting their sprinkling to twice a week. Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days.

Editor's Note: The Public Policy Institute of California poll results are based on a telephone survey of 1,706 California adult residents conducted March 8 to 17.

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<![CDATA[CA Attorney General Moves to End Anti-Gay Initiative]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:44:47 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/file-kamala-harris-ca-ag.jpg

California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked a state court on Wednesday for permission to reject a proposed ballot initiative stipulating that anyone who engages in gay sex be killed.

Harris issued a statement saying she was making the unusual request to stop the measure filed by a Southern California lawyer late last month. The initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make sex with a person of the same gender an offense punishable by "bullets to the head or by any other convenient method." The distribution of gay "propaganda" would be punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

"This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society," Harris said.

Matthew McLaughlin, the Orange County lawyer who paid $200 to submit the initiative, did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment. A Democratic state senator, Ricardo Lara, has asked the California bar to investigate whether McLaughlin's actions make him unfit to practice law.

The measure puts Harris in a difficult position. Although the bill has no discernible momentum or likely chance of success, she said unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to give McLaughlin the go-ahead to seek the nearly 366,000 votes needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot.

California is one of 21 states where citizens can petition to have laws put on the ballot through the gathering of voter signatures. Under California's initiative process, state officials do not have authority to refuse to administer initiatives they find objectionable, the California Supreme Court has ruled. Although few of the dozens submitted to the attorney general each year make it on the ballot, the ease with which a resident with a pet peeve can gain clearance to circulate their proposals while seeking signatures has prompted calls for reform.

University of California, Davis law professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California's initiative process, said Harris alone cannot impede the proposed law. And despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin's proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to halt it at this stage.

"The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate," he said.

On Wednesday, a Southern California real estate agent, Charlotte Laws, countered the so-called "Sodomite Suppression Act" with an initiative of her own. Titled the Intolerant Jackass Act, it would require anyone who proposes an initiative calling for the killing of gays and lesbians to attend sensitivity training and make a $5,000 donation to a pro-LGBT group.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Variety]]>
<![CDATA[Dad, Stepmom Charged in Death of Florida Toddler Found in Box]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:22:22 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/nelsonosceolaleavesjail.jpg

The father of a South Florida toddler whose body was discovered covered in bruises in a trash bag after he was reported missing exited the Broward County Jail early Thursday flanked by relatives and refusing to speak with reporters.

When questioned about what happened to his son, Nelson Osceola only replied "I can't talk about it."

Nelson Osceola, along with Analiz Osceola, the child's stepmother, were arrested Wednesday.

Analiz Osceola, 24, is charged with aggravated manslaughter, child neglect and providing false information to law enforcement in the death of 3-year-old Hollywood boy Ahziya Osceola.

She was being held on $230,000 bond Wednesday, records showed. It was unknown if she has an attorney.

Nelson Osceola, 25, is charged with child neglect. He was being held on $50,000 bond, jail records showed. His bond was paid. His attorney was unavailable for comment late Wednesday.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez said the boy died of blunt trauma.

"We believe that justice has been brought to the forefront," Fernandez said. "Little Ahziya sustained a significant amount of injuries both internal and external and was found inside a box in an obscure location deliberately hidden from law enforcement's ability to locate."

The arrests come a day after it was learned that the bruised body of the boy had been put in garbage bags and put in a box in the laundry room of his father's home by Analiz, his stepmother.

According to Child Protective Services documents obtained by NBC 6, the boy was last seen alive by his stepmother last Thursday, several hours before he was reported missing.

Analiz Osceola said she heard the boy grunting around 4 a.m. and when she touched him he was slightly cold but still warm, the documents said. She put him on the floor and attempted to do CPR but got no pulse.

The stepmother didn't tell anyone about his condition including her own mother, who lives in the home and is a nurse, the documents said.

Instead, Analiz Osceola waited for the other adults to leave the home then took two garbage bags and put his body inside them then put him in a box in the laundry room, the documents said.

It's believed the boy was not alive when he was placed in the box, which was completely hidden, Fernandez said.

She reported him missing around 11 a.m., about seven hours later, the documents said. A massive search was conducted before police found the boy's body in the home. His body had extensive bruising "from head to toe," the documents said.

Fernandez said Analiz Osceola claimed money was missing from the house and gave contradicting details.

"There are many details that she discussed, some of which were contradicting," Fernandez said. "She knew that the child was injured, the child did have injuries that should have seeked medical attention, they did not seek medical attention."

Ahziya Osceola lived with his father and stepmother and two siblings. On Monday, a judge ordered the siblings to stay with a relative, and said Nelson Osceola won't be allowed near them.

The Department of Children and Families visited the family four times, records showed.

"He endured a significant amount of pain in his three years of life," Fernandez said.

Analiz Osceola checked herself in to a mental ward the day after the boy was found dead.

Photo Credit: Julia Bagg @JuliaNBC6]]>
<![CDATA[Family in "Wild Goose Chase" Abduction Case Vanishes: Cops ]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:10:36 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/huskinsmainphoto1.jpg

The investigation into the reported kidnapping-for-ransom of a woman found Wednesday in Southern California was a "wild goose chase", Vallejo police said.

The purported victim Denise Huskins and her whole family disappeared a day after she turned up safe in Southern California, despite the FBI arranging for a jet to fly them back to the Northern California city, police said.

Huskins, 29, was reportedly abducted Monday morning from a Vallejo, California, home. She was reported to be kidnapped by her boyfriend but was found safe Wednesday morning in Huntington Beach, her family and police told NBC4.

If Huskins or her boyfriend committed any criminal act in the false story, Vallejo police will seek federal charges, said Lt. Kenny Park, of the Vallejo Police Department.

"(The search is) what I would classify as a wild-goose chase," Park said, "(It) was such an incredible story, we initially had a hard time believing it. As of right now, we have not heard from Ms. Huskins and we are no longer in contact with any of the family members."

Huskins and her family had made plans to speak with authorities but has since disappeared, Vallejo police said in a news release.

Police said there was some indication that she would be cooperative and speak with investigators but when the FBI arranged for the jet to bring her to Northern California for an interview, she was nowhere to be found.

Huskins has since retained an attorney and detectives do not know where she is.

Her uncle Jeff Kane told NBC4 that the claims made by police are "absolute c***."

"I imagine maybe she's seen enough of Vallejo to be quite honest with you," Kane added.

Since the investigation was launched on Monday, 40 detectives and over 100 personnel have been searching for and investigating Huskins' disappearance, which they said they didn't believe was a random act of violence.

"Today, there is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all," Vallejo police said in a news release. "Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping."

Huskins' boyfriend claimed an intruder broke into his home early Monday morning and took her by force while demanding a ransom. But her boyfriend waited 11 hours to report it to police, officials said.

On Wednesday morning, the woman went to her mother’s house in Huntington Beach, but her mother wasn't home because she went to Vallejo to look for her daughter, Huskins' aunt said.

She then walked to her father’s home, also in Huntington Beach, but he is also in Vallejo. Huskins called her father from a neighbor's residence.

Relatives and friends hugged and cried outside the apartment building in Huntington Beach, relieved she was OK.

"Excitement, overwhelmed ... I didn't know anything that was going to happen. You hear these stories all the time and you watch TV about them and you never know," cousin Natalia Kane said. "I just was happy to hear that she was alive and safe, and home."

Huskins spoke with officers before they drove her in a car to be reunited with family in a more private place.

Additional details were not available, and it was not clear how she got to Huntington Beach.

"I wish I could tell you that it was party time jubilation and all that, but it was just relief more than anything," her uncle, Jeff Kane, said.

Police on Tuesday did not elaborate on what the ransom demand might be.

Huskins is from Huntington Beach, and according to her Facebook page moved to Vallejo in June 2014. She is a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente.

Hetty Chang, Jason Kandel, Jodi Hernandez and Michael Larkin contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of the Huskins family.]]>
<![CDATA[Boston Marathon Trial: Chemical, Bomb Experts Set to Testify ]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:41:59 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/233*120/TLMD-tsarnaev-maraton-boston-sketch-art-lien-Dun-meng-hermanos-le-robaron-carro-.JPG

It was an emotional day in court, as jurors viewed the autopsy photos of Boston Marathon bombing victim Krystle Campbell.

One juror grabbed a tissue as she wiped away tears, while another juror overcome with emotion put his head in his hands.

Medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Hammers testified that Campbell died from blast injuries to her torso and legs, saying that she lost so much blood that she likely survived less than a minute before succumbing to her injuries on Boylston Street.

The autopsy photos were only shown to the jury, witness and attorneys on either side, but defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev turned around in his chair and glanced quickly at the display screen before being told to turn back around.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard testimony from FBI agent Edward Knapp, who pieced the thousands of bomb components found on Boylston Street and in Watertown back together and created mock ups of the devices.

He let the jurors handle and examine each replica bomb and explained to them how the components were modified - from remote controlled car transmitters, receivers and batteries to send energy to a modified Christmas tree light, and how fireworks powder was placed into pressure cookers and pipe bombs, fashioned with hobby fuse as a back up detonator.

Agent Knapp then showed the jury how the electrical components worked, by arming the inert replica devices and pressing the trigger on the transmitter which lit the Christmas tree light that glowed brightly green.

He explained in the actual device the filament on that light would have set off the bomb.

Photo Credit: Art Lien via NBC
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<![CDATA[Kidnapped for Ransom "Orchestrated"]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 03:20:00 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/huskinsmainphoto.jpg

The mysterious reported kidnapping for ransom took a new twist Wednesday night when authorities said the woman and her family who had made plans to talk to police had disappeared.

Denise Huskins, 29, was reportedly abducted Monday morning from a Vallejo home, police said. She was reported to be kidnapped by her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, but was found safe Wednesday morning in Huntington Beach, her family and police told NBC4.

Now, police say, Huskins and Quinn have become the target of the investigation as police probe whether they did anything illegal in their report of a random, violent abduction and a ransom request of $8,500.

Huskins and her family had made plans Wednesday afternoon to speak with authorities but have since disappeared, Vallejo police said.

Police said there was some indication that she would be cooperative and speak with investigators but when the FBI arranged a jet to bring her to Northern California for an interview, she was nowhere to be found.

Huskins has since retained an attorney and detectives do not know where she is, police said.

Since the investigation was launched on Monday, 40 detectives and over 100 personnel have been searching for and investigating Huskins' disappearance, which they said they didn't believe was a random act of violence.

"Today, there is no evidence to support the claims that this was a stranger abduction or an abduction at all," Vallejo police said in a press release. "Given the facts that have been presented thus far, this event appears to be an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping."

Lt. Kenny Park of the Vallejo Police Department told reporters at a press conference Wednesday night that police are looking into possible state and federal charges in the case. Park also said Huskins and her boyfriend sent police on a "wild goose chase."

"The fact that we've wasted all these resources is really upsetting," Park said, adding that "Mr. Quinn and Ms. Huskins owe this community an apology."

At an earlier news conference, Park said his department received a phone call from Huntington Beach police at 10:30 a.m. reporting Huskins had been found safe. Prior to the conference, Mike Huskins said his daughter, Denise, is safe in Huntington Beach. He didn't provide any other details.

Huskins' boyfriend claims an intruder broke into his Mare Island home early Monday morning and took Huskins by force while demanding a ransom. But for some reason, her boyfriend waited 11 hours to report it to police. Park said the alleged ransom for Huskins was $8,500.

How Huskins got to Huntington Beach was not made clear in Wednesday's press conference.

Huskins' uncle, Jeff Kane, said Wednesday morning he was relieved to hear his niece was safe. "Now we know where she is, that’s the most important thing, obviously, but now curiosity is kicking in, and we go, ‘what happened here, why her,’” he said.

“It all seems curious to me," Kane added. "it seems diabolical, it seems criminal, but it also seems orthodox in the crime world.”

Kanes said Huskins' dad had answered a call from an unknown number which turned out to be his daughter. "She said 'Daddy, I am safe, they let me go and I am walking to your house'," Kane said. 

Since Huskins' father was in Vallejo at the time, she went to a neighbor's house. Family in Southern California broke into tears when they heard Huskins was back.

"Excitement, overwhelmed ... I didn't know anything that was going to happen. You hear these stories all the time and you watch TV about them and you never know," cousin Natalia Kane said. "I just was happy to hear that she was alive and safe, and home."

Huskins is from Huntington Beach, and according to her Facebook page moved to Vallejo in June 2014. She is a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle was sent an email with an audio file of a woman claiming to be Denise Huskins, who said in a brief call, “I’m kidnapped, otherwise I’m fine.”

In the short clip, she identifies herself, talks about the French Alps plane crash to establish the date and references a personal detail about herself about the first concert she saw. Her voice is calm and the clip lasts less than 10 seconds. It’s unclear who made the clip, or who emailed it to the Chronicle.

Lisa Fernandez and Bay City News contributed to this report

Photo Credit: Courtesy Huskins family]]>
<![CDATA[10 Questions With Boston Yeti]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:41:54 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/9cb42b8933d74b5bad4aece86ef2bb59.jpg

The Boston Yeti was the star of Boston’s miserable winter of 2015, helping to lift spirits and gaining international attention as he traipsed around the city as snowstorm after snowstorm buried the city. 

Now, he’s using his newfound notoriety to help some fellow furry friends by selling Yeti swag to raise money for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

NECN hosted a Twitter chat with the Boston Yeti on Wednesday. A full transcript of the conversation is included above.

Photo Credit: Minogue, Bridget (NBCUniversal)
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<![CDATA[Drug Ring Operated in Mall: Police]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 20:37:26 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/palisades+mall.jpg

More than two dozen people are expected to be charged Wednesday as authorities dismantle a Oxycodone and heroin trafficking ring that distributed drugs in public places including a large Rockland County mall, NBC 4 New York has learned.

Twenty-nine people were named in federal and state indictments charging them with conspiracy and drug charges for a narcotics ring that operated out of the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, the Mount Ivy Trailer Park in Pomona and various motels around Rockland County between early 2014 and March, law enforcement officials and a federal indictment say.

"Dealers in this operation are alleged to have sunk to a new low, selling prescription drugs and heroin at popular locations where parents drop off their kids to see a movie, attend a birthday party or spend time ice skating with friends," Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said at a news conference Wednesday.

The group sold more than 50,000 Oxycodone tablets valued at more than $1 million over the course of the year, most of which were obtained through forged and fraudulent prescriptions, according to the indictment.

One defendant allegedly used his home computer to fill out blank New York State prescriptions with fraudulent patient and doctor information, officials say. Lower-level "runners" would then go to pharmacies across the state to fill the prescriptions.

They also obtained and sold significant quantities of heroin from a distributor in the Bronx, according to officials.

Some of the defendants allegedly celebrated their drug trafficking on social media sites Instagram and Twitter, with one writing on the latter: "Shout out my TMC [Too Much Cash] bros we taking over the streets."

Teams of federal, state and local investigators began making arrests early Wednesday morning.

Seventeen people, including the operation's alleged ringleader, are being charged with federal crimes. The other 12 suspects face state charges.

Neighbors in the Pomona community where some of the drug operations allegedly took place know some of the suspects arrested Wednesday, and were stunned to hear of their arrests.

"It's just a huge surprise to me," said Joanne Brown. "They're just fun-loving guys, always fun to be around. This is just sad." 

Investigators with the DEA, NYPD, Westchester County Police and the Town of Orangetown Police conducted the investigation, law enforcement officials say.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[New Starbucks Frappucino Flavor]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 19:31:52 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Birthday_Cake_Frappuccino_%283%29.jpg

Get it while it’s… cold?

Starbucks’ popular frappuccino has turned 20 and to honor the beverage's big birthday, the company has debuted a new specialty drink—the Birthday Cake Frappuccino.

The limited-time beverage, a vanilla bean and hazelnut mixture topped with raspberry-infused whipped cream, will be available at Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada from Thursday to Monday.

The iconic drink was first released in the summer of 1995 with coffee and mocha flavors available. The drinks was initially made without whipped cream.

“The first week of launch we were tracking sales, and it was something like 200,000 drinks the first week – when we were hoping for 100,000,” Dan Moore, director of brand management at Starbucks, said in a statement. “The next week it was 400,000 and the next it was 800,000. We had figured it would do well in Southern California – but it sold just as well in Chicago, Vancouver B.C. and Boston. It was huge.”

The drink changed the company’s customer base, giving them a way to bring in people who weren’t typically coffee drinkers.

In 1999, Starbucks released the Caramel Frappuccino, complete with the now-typical “dome lid” for whipped cream.

“At the time, domed lids were radical thinking, so was the idea of adding whipped cream,” said Dina Campion of Starbucks’ Digital Team. “But for our customers it represented a momentary break – an escape in their day.”

In 2002, came the Blended Crème beverage, followed by the Frappuccino Light. By 2010, customers could customize their frappuccinos to be made with milk or soy, various coffee types and their preferred syrups and toppings.

The blended beverages are now available in 66 countries with more than 36,000 different drink combinations.

Other countries have unique flavors like the Coffee Jelly Frappuccino and Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino in Asia, the Algarrobina Frappuccino in Peru or the chocolate Brigadeiro Frappuccino in Brazil. 

Photo Credit: Starbucks]]>
<![CDATA[Slain San Jose Cop Mourned]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 02:37:00 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/johnsonbadge.jpg

San Jose’s police chief held a somber news conference Wednesday morning, hours after a veteran police officer was killed by a drunk, suicidal man during a welfare call – the first officer death in the city in 14 years.

“It’s unfortunate for any of our officers to lose their life,” Police Chief Larry Esquivel said, with obvious emotion even before the sun came up. “It’s something we are aware of, and that we need to address.”

The suspect in Officer Michael Johnson's killing – Scott Dunham of San Jose, a former groundskeeper  – was “despondent” when family members called for help about 6:48 p.m. Tuesday because the female caller thought he might harm himself or others, police said.

According to the 911 call, the dispatcher said the caller worried about Dunham, who said "he'd kill her if she didn't leave," referring to Dunham's wife. The dispatcher also says Dunham "used pills five or six years ago" and may be bipolar. An officer is heard asking the dispatcher to do a weapons check on Dunham. The dispatcher confirmed he had a handgun, though no guns were registered in his name. Another officer is heard on the dispatch saying "I'm told there's all kinds of ammo in the house."

As Johnson and other officers approached the apartment building in the 2600 block of Senter Road, Dunham fired upon them with a high-powered rifle from the balcony, police said. Johnson died at the scene. His body was taken away from the scene early Wednesday, as a procession of patrol cars snaked through the streets of San Jose alongside him.

Dunham was found dead on the apartment balcony at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday. The 57-year-old had suffered at least one gunshot wound. It's still unclear, however, if he killed himself, or if he died as a result of the ensuing police gunfire. "It's possible he was dead the whole time," Esquivel said.

Esquivel added that there were no known previous calls to the address. Still, court records indicate Dunham was charged with three counts of assault and battery, which he plead no contest to in 1996. He spent three days in jail, and was ordered to probation and counseling, along with a protective order. He petitioned the court to have the no contest changed to a "dismissal," records indicate.

Foothill-De Anza College District's Acting Chancellor Kevin McElroy said Dunham worked as a grounds gardener for the district from October 1998 to June of 2012 when he "resigned for purposes of retirement."

Police officers all over the country expressed their condolences, as did Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, who issued a statement Wednesday remembering Johnson's "courage and dedicated service."

His family emailed a statement, saying Johnson was killed "while trying to help the community he loved. We are deeply saddened by his loss and cannot express in writing how deep a hole in our hearts we are left with by his passing." The family thanked everone for "sharing our pain," and asked for time to "grieve and heal in private."

Until the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, the scene was chaotic along Senter Road, between Umbarger Road and Balfour Drive while police and MERGE units searched for the gunman, who they did not know he was dead on the balcony at the time. Police were heard shouting: "There is a man with a high-powered rifle who may be pointing it at you right now. You may be in the line of fire." Anthony Mancilla witnessed some of the aftermath and took video with his cell phone. He said he heard two gunshots. A man was heard in the street saying "He shot a cop. He shot a cop."

Esquivel thanked "the community," hoping residents would understand why they were evacuated because of the commotion.

Some residents along Senter Road were kept out of their homes all night, and even into the morning hours of Wednesday. Khoun Thoeuk, a mother of six, slept at her sister-in-law's house and only got two hours of sleep. Other aspects of local life were also distrupted due to the investigation; San Jose Conservation Corps Charter School on 2650 Senter Road was closed on Wednesday.  And Mayor Sam Liccardo, who called this San Jose's "darkest hour," canceled a Rules and Open Government Committee meeting.

Johnson was newly assigned as a training officer, and was in the same police academy class as Jeffrey Fontana, the last San Jose police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Fontana, a 24-year-old Woodside resident, was shot in 2001 during a high-risk vehicle stop. That gunman, DeShawn Campbell, was convicted in a case that dragged out for seven years.

Johnson is 12th officer to be killed in the San Jose Police Department's 166-year history, according to Morales.

He leaves behind his wife, Nicole, who was out of town at the time, police said, and parents, Katherine Decker and Daniel Johnson.

After the chief's early-morning news conference, department spokesman Albert Morales took over for Esquivel, saying the chief was “broken up” and had the “very, very difficult” job of telling his officers “to do a good job” and protect the citizens of San Jose after what happened.

“Our hearts are heavy,” Morales said.

For information on how to make a donation to Johnson's family, click here.

NBC Bay Area's  Kristofer Noceda, Lauren Inderhees, Gonzalo Rojas, Terry McSweeney, Jeff Clayton and Damian Trujillo contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: San Jose police
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<![CDATA[NJ School Computers Held Hostage for Bitcoins]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:27:28 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/450765322.jpg

A New Jersey school district is hoping to resume standardized testing after delays because its computer network was shut down in an online attack.

Officials say the computers in the Swedesboro-Woolwich district in southern New Jersey were held hostage for days by someone who was seeking 500 bitcoins, or about $125,000 in digital currency.

The FBI, state police, the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office and other law-enforcement agencies are investigating the attack, which began over the weekend.

Superintendent Terry Van Zoeren says students' personal information was not compromised because most of it is stored at remote servers.

But the attack did mean two days of delays in standardized testing. The PARCC test being given across New Jersey this month is administered on computers.

The district plans to start testing Wednesday.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baby Hippo Born at San Diego Zoo]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:24:39 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Funani-Hippo-2.jpg

A brand-new baby hippopotamus was born at the San Diego Zoo, officials announced Tuesday.

The hippo was born around 6:30 a.m. Monday and is doing well, Jenny Mehlow of San Diego Zoo Global said. Keepers have been observing the newborn and its mother, Funani, and the calf has already nursed several times, Mehlow said.

For now, the calf will be staying very close to its mother since baby hippos typically nurse for about eight months. The sex of the hippo is not known yet, as keepers have not been able to get a close enough look at the baby.

Hippo calves are usually about 50 pounds at birth, zoo officials said.

Mehlow said this is the fifth calf raised by Funani at the San Diego Zoo. The 30-year-old mother has birthed 11 calves since 1989. Her mate is Otis, an adult male hippo brought to the San Diego Zoo from the Los Angeles Zoo in 2009 specifically to breed with her.

Last March, Funani gave birth to another baby hippo. Sadly, that calf died just days after its birth.

Mehlow said this newborn has had no issues thus far. The zoo's animal care staff is watching both the baby and Funani closely.

San Diego Zoo Senior Keeper John Michel said the calf and mother are bonding nicely, with their nursing sessions lasting several minutes, occurring several times a day.

“If people come out to view the baby, patience will be rewarded,” added Michel. “Guests may have to wait sometimes as long as half an hour, but the calf will wake up and start moving to deeper water, and mom will start to push it back up to shallow water.”

The San Diego Zoo says the river hippopotamus is a threatened species.

Primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting, for meat and the ivory found in the canine teeth, and habitat loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The zoo’s first hippopotamus was born at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago in July 1935 and arrived in San Diego in August 1936, becoming the first hippo to be exhibited by a zoo on the West Coast, according to the zoo website.

In 1940, hippos Rube and Ruby arrived in San Diego from the Calcutta Zoo in India. Together, the pair had 11 offspring, helping the exhibit grow. Ruby and Rube died in 1982 and 1988, respectively.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[Dartmouth Frat Accused of Branding]]> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:17:20 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/180*120/515044559.jpg

A legal representative for a Dartmouth College fraternity accused of physically branding the skin of new members denied students engaged in criminal wrongdoing. The attorney compared the act of branding by Alpha Delta fraternity members to voluntarily getting a tattoo.

Dartmouth said Alpha Delta was already on suspension for violating alcohol rules before the new reports of physical branding surfaced from the fall of 2014. A college spokesman said the Ivy League school has extended and strengthened that suspension due to the branding allegations.

The fraternity house was one of the inspirations for the rowdy scenes in the 1978 Jim Belushi movie "Animal House."

More recently, it has had a history of hazing, underage drinking violations, and hosting unregistered parties, the college said.

Attorney George Ostler said a small number of fraternity members voluntarily chose to get body brands, the Associated Press reported, but the practice was never a condition of membership. He said no hazing occurred, no one was injured, and noted members are cooperating fully with the college.

New England Cable News knocked on the front door of Alpha Delta but no one answered. A young man who identified himself as a fraternity brother politely declined to comment to necn.

"They did that as a part of initiation to our [different] fraternity but it wasn't a real brand," recalled Dartmouth alum Hale Irwin, of Middlesex, Vermont. "You were blindfolded and they had a piece of dry ice they put it on your leg-- and they had a branding iron and a piece of meat so you smelled your 'flesh' burning. But was it really real here? That's a little out of control."

The chief of police in Hanover, New Hampshire, Charlie Dennis, told necn there is an active investigation into whether anything criminal happened at Alpha Delta. He said he has a policy of not commenting on open investigations.

Dartmouth declined on-camera interviews, but issued the following statement about the Alpha Delta case:

Alpha Delta fraternity has been charged with violating Dartmouth's standards of conduct in connection with the reported branding of some new members of the fraternity by other members in the fall of 2014.

The activities in question reportedly occurred inside the Alpha Delta fraternity house, while the fraternity was on suspension for policy violations in the winter and spring of 2014. The organization has a significant three-year history of disciplinary violations, including hazing, underage service of alcohol, and hosting unregistered events.

Because of the serious nature of the charges, and the evidence gathered to date, Dartmouth is strengthening and extending the terms of AD's current suspension pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.

If Alpha Delta is found responsible during that process, a range of possible disciplinary sanctions could be imposed including, but not limited to, probation, suspension, or permanent revocation of recognition.

Nathan Grant, a high school junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, was touring Dartmouth Wednesday and said the culture around campus Greek life is on his mind during his college search.

"You see a lot of Greek life on TV and you're kind of worried because you see many positive things but also negative things," Grant said. "As long as you make the right options and choices, I think you should be fine."

It is unclear how the branding was performed; whether it was done by the application of heat, chemicals, or other means. A Dartmouth spokesman said he could not provide details on the method of branding or how the reports surfaced, instead simply referring necn to the college's statement.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/National Geographic Creative]]>