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December 19, 2015

Court sentences mother to 26 years in prison for murdering infant

Court sentences mother to 26 years in prison for murdering infant

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Saturday, December 19, 2015


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A court in Sacramento, California has sentenced a mother, Ka Yang, to 26 years to life in prison on Friday for the first-degree murder of her infant.

In November, a court convicted her of placing her six week old infant in a microwave oven in 2011. The baby suffered from severe burns covering a large part of her body that reached into her organs, prosecutors said.

Yang said she blacked out from a seizure and wasn’t aware of what she was doing at the time of the incident. According to her, she woke up with the baby already dead. Paramedics who arrived at the scene, however, said Yang wasn’t disoriented.



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February 9, 2013

United States deportation policies challenged in Santa Clara County, California

United States deportation policies challenged in Santa Clara County, California

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

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Residents of Santa Clara County, California expressed their opposition at a public hearing Thursday January 31 to a local detainment provision of the Secure Communities program of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Secure Communities includes a provision that ICE can ask state and local detention facilities to hold anyone arrested who might be in the US without adequate documentation until ICE has time to review their case.

Santa Clara County, California, Board of Supervisors Chambers shortly after the brief February 7 meeting of the Public Safety and Justice Committee

The comments came in a public hearing of a policy working group of the Public Safety and Justice Committee, convened to discuss a November 7 recommendation by District Attorney Jeff Rosen to honor ICE detainer requests for serious and violent offenders. Since October 18, 2011, Santa Clara County has refused ICE requests to detain individuals who would otherwise be released.

Another opportunity for public comment on this occurred this Thursday, at the monthly meeting of the Public Safety and Justice Committee of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Supporters of DA Rosen’s proposal had earlier asked their people to email the supervisors and attend this meeting and the Board of Supervisors’ Meeting next Tuesday, February 12. No public comments were made at this Thursday’s meeting.

The January 31 hearing began with comments by approximately 25 of the audience of roughly 35–40, all of which opposed the DA’s proposal. They said public safety was enhanced under the current policy because many in the immigrant community have less reason to fear that they or people they care about would be deported if the police were called. Sheriff Laurie Smith then described an individual who is now in prison with a rape conviction for an event that would have been prevented if the detention request from ICE had been honored. Several in the audience replied by asking how many other criminals would go free because people refused to report or testify as a result of increased fear of deportation.

Comments supporting the current policy have been made by people who did not attend. The San Jose Mercury News for January 31 includes an op ed by Supervisor Dave Cortese, acting Public Defender Molly O’Neal, and Director of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium Cynthia Hunter. They wrote, “There is nothing more valuable to public safety than community trust in local law enforcement because it establishes residents’ willingness to report crimes and cooperate with police. But that trust will break down immeasurably in immigrant communities if residents face the debilitating fear of deportation. This is especially true in Santa Clara County, where two-thirds of residents live in immigrant households.”

Since the January 31 hearing, support for the position of the Sheriff and the DA has begun to materialize with at least one conservative group asking their followers to email the supervisors and attend public meetings such as the one this Thursday and the Board of Supervisors’ meeting next Tuesday, February 12.

The policy adopted October 18, 2011 stated Santa Clara County would honor ICE detention requests “for individuals who have been convicted of a serious or violent felony,” provided ICE agreed in writing to reimburse the county for the additional expense. DA Rosen’s November 7 presentation claimed honoring ICE holds would “produce an undetermined amount of cost savings by reducing probation costs”, as individuals otherwise on probation would be transferred to federal detention. Reports from Colorado and Los Angeles have claimed that ICE holds averaged over 20 days. ICE claims an official limit of at most two days.

Los Angeles is currently being sued over questionable detentions of a number of individuals including a British filmmaker named Duncan Roy, who was held for 89 days. If Los Angeles loses, it appears local taxpayers may be liable.

After DA Rosen’s presentation on November 7, the Santa Clara County Public Safety and Justice Committee referred this issue to its policy review working group, which held various private meetings, failed to reach a consensus, and then organized the public meeting of January 31. The next official action on this issue is currently scheduled for the March 7 meeting of the Public Safety and Justice Committee.



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December 27, 2012

California judge disqualified from predatory lending case

California judge disqualified from predatory lending case

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

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The Old Courthouse in Santa Clara County. This courthouse is often cited as the origin of corporate personhood, as the 1886 Supreme Court case in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad began here.

Judge James A. Stoelker of Santa Clara County, California Superior Court was disqualified from hearing a case on predatory lending practices the day before Christmas, on a technicality. The case was filed by David and Salma Merritt of Santa Clara County against multiple defendants, including Countrywide, Bank of America, and First American Title, among others.

The Merritts had challenged Judge Stoelker’s involvement in the case, claiming many of his rulings had favored his former clients even when law would have indicated otherwise. Some of the defendants are Judge Stoelker’s former clients.

The events leading to this case began in 2006 when the Merritts accepted a home loan from Countrywide. At that time, Countrywide was advertising 30-year mortgages at between 1 and 3 percent interest. The Merritts received a “good faith estimate” consistent with those advertisements. They claim that Countrywide representatives tricked them into signing loan documents that were subsequently altered to appear to commit them to an obligation they had not agreed to.

A review of similar predatory lending cases filed by individuals in California found that all had been settled in at most 9 months, usually in favor of the banks. Merritt v. Mozilo has continued in the courts for much longer, celebrating its third anniversary last Saturday. The Merritts’ claims are consistent with published statements by Eileen Foster, former Executive Vice President of Fraud Risk Management at Countrywide, that fraud was endemic to certain parts of Countrywide.

Theirs was the only case heard in Department 9 that morning in recognition of Christmas. That hearing was scheduled, because the Sixth District of the California Court of Appeals (case number H038883) required the Santa Clara County Superior Court to (a) give all parties an opportunity to be heard regarding the possible disqualification of Judge Stoelker and (b) reply to the appellate court by December 26. This appellate ruling was only issued on November 26, and Judge Mark H. Pierce did not schedule the required hearing until December 12. The notice for this hearing required parties to file responses ten days before, which meant that the parties only had two days to prepare their replies.

On August 16, the Merritts learned Judge Stoelker had represented defendants in this case on numerous occasions before he was appointed to the bench in December 2010 and had not disclosed this fact to the Merritts. The next day they filed a Verified Statement of Disqualification asking Stoekler to recuse himself. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 170.3(c)(3) and (4) [confirmed in the 1988 appellate decision in Lewis v. Superior Court] give a judge ten days to respond to to such a motion. Stoelker replied on the eleventh day.

“All Rise” was heard at 9:04 AM local time Monday morning, whereupon Judge Pierce entered the courtroom. Attending by phone were attorneys James Goldberg representing Bank of America and Brian Craft representing First American Title. David Merritt was present representing himself. Goldberg had filed a brief asserting that the Merritts’ Verified Statement of Disqualification was served upon Judge Stoelker on August 17 but was not filed, as witnessed by the fact that it was not listed on the docket. Judge Pierce reported that he had checked the files and found that this Statement had indeed been filed, and he didn’t know why it was not on the docket. Attorney Goldberg suggested that the fact that the Statement was not on the docket may have contributed to Judge Stoelker’s failure to respond within the ten day limit. Judge Pierce replied, “That’s a stretch.”

Attorney Craft asked about next steps, since all action in this case had been stayed by the appellate court pending resolution of this issue. Judge Pierce then replied that Judge Manoukian would be handling discovery in this case, replacing Judge Stoelker in that capacity. He further stated that a reply to the appellate court had been prepared concurring with the appellate court’s disqualification of Judge Stoelker and asked Mr. Merritt to retrieve that order from the clerk in the courtroom and file it as usual with the clerk’s office. He also noted that this action would lift the stay. Other actions in this case could now proceed with the next steps being scheduled January 22, 2013, or later.

This is the second appellate reversal of decisions by this superior court in this case. The first reversal came on December 19, 2011, when the appellate court reinstated Wells Fargo as a defendant.



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California judge disqualified from predatory lending case involving former clients

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

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Flag of the United States.svg

The Old Courthouse in Santa Clara County. This courthouse is often cited as the origin of corporate personhood, as the 1886 Supreme Court case in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad began here.

Judge James A. Stoelker of Santa Clara County, California Superior Court was disqualified from overseeing a case on predatory lending practices the day before Christmas, on a technicality. The case was filed by David and Salma Merritt of Santa Clara County against multiple defendants, including Countrywide, Bank of America, and First American Title, among others.

The Merritts initiated concerns over Judge Stoelker’s involvement in the case, claiming many of his rulings had favored his former clients even when law would have indicated otherwise. Some of the defendants are Judge Stoelker’s former clients.

The events leading to this case began in 2006 when the Merritts accepted a home loan from Countrywide. At that time, Countrywide was advertising 30-year mortgages at between 1 and 3 percent interest. The Merritts received a “good faith estimate” consistent with those advertisements. They claim that Countrywide representatives tricked them into signing loan documents that were subsequently altered to appear to commit them to roughly four times the obligation they had agreed to.

A review of similar predatory lending cases filed by individuals in California found that all had been settled in at most 9 months, usually in favor of the banks. Merritt v. Mozilo has continued in the courts for much longer, celebrating its third anniversary last Saturday. The Merritts’ claims are consistent with published statements by Eileen Foster, former Executive Vice President of Fraud Risk Management at Countrywide, that fraud was endemic to certain parts of Countrywide.

Theirs was the only case heard in Department 9 that morning in recognition of Christmas. That hearing was scheduled, because the Sixth District of the California Court of Appeals (case number H038883) required the Santa Clara County Superior Court to (a) give all parties an opportunity to be heard regarding the possible disqualification of Judge Stoelker and (b) reply to the appellate court by December 26. This appellate ruling was only issued on November 26, and Judge Mark H. Pierce did not schedule the required hearing until December 12. The notice for this hearing required parties to file responses ten days before, which meant that the parties only had two days to prepare their replies.

On August 16, the Merritts learned Judge Stoelker had represented defendants in this case on numerous occasions before he was appointed to the bench in December 2010 and had not disclosed this fact to the Merritts. The next day they filed a Verified Statement of Disqualification asking Stoekler to recuse himself. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 170.3(c)(3) and (4) [confirmed in the 1988 appellate decision in Lewis v. Superior Court] give a judge ten days to respond to to such a motion. Stoelker replied on the eleventh day.

“All Rise” was heard at 9:04 AM local time Monday morning, whereupon Judge Pierce entered the courtroom. Attending by phone were attorneys James Goldberg representing Bank of America and Brian Craft representing First American Title. David Merritt was present representing himself. Goldberg had filed a brief asserting that the Merritts’ Verified Statement of Disqualification was served upon Judge Stoelker on August 17 but was not filed, as witnessed by the fact that it was not listed on the docket. Judge Pierce reported that he had checked the files and found that this Statement had indeed been filed, and he didn’t know why it was not on the docket. Attorney Goldberg suggested that the fact that the Statement was not on the docket may have contributed to Judge Stoelker’s failure to respond within the ten day limit. Judge Pierce replied, “That’s a stretch.”

Attorney Craft asked about next steps, since all action in this case had been stayed by the appellate court pending resolution of this issue. Judge Pierce then replied that Judge Manoukian would be handling discovery in this case, replacing Judge Stoelker in that capacity. He further stated that a reply to the appellate court had been prepared concurring with the appellate court’s disqualification of Judge Stoelker and asked Mr. Merritt to retrieve that order from the clerk in the courtroom and file it as usual with the clerk’s office. He also noted that this action would lift the stay. Other actions in this case could now proceed with the next steps being scheduled January 22, 2013, or later.

This is the second appellate reversal of decisions by this superior court in this case. The first reversal came on December 19, 2011, when the appellate court reinstated Wells Fargo as a defendant.

Appellate reversals are not uncommon. A 2006 report by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics found 43% of post-trial appeals were dismissed and only a third of the remaining 57% — about 19% of all appeals — were decided in favor of the appellant. In other words, almost one out of five post-trial appeals produced at least a partial reversal. However, most appeals are made after a trial; pretrial appeals are relatively rare.



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February 6, 2007

Furry fans flock to Further Confusion 2007

Furry fans flock to Further Confusion 2007

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

San Jose, California – Cell phones, cigarette lighters and glowsticks are raised in tribute as Circle of Life begins playing. Soon cheers drown out the song as the multicoloured performers appear on stage. A somewhat unusual introduction; but this is no ordinary show, and these are no ordinary attendees. This is Further Confusion, the second largest furry convention in the world.

Two fursuiters get with the convention’s theme

The volunteer organizers have something to cheer about, too; Furry fans have gathered from far and wide at the DoubleTree Hotel to indulge their love of anthropomorphics, and Further Confusion’s 9th year is its largest, with a paid attendance of 2061. Their gains mirror those of Midwest FurFest, a similar convention held in Schaumburg, Illinois which grew 35% last November.

Both events feature art shows and auctions, live puppetry performance, masquerades, variety shows, games and parades, as well as panels that range from science and technology to society, sex and spirituality. Filling out the schedule, the hotel walls are lined with announcements of public and private room parties for separate groups. At night, the disco floor fills with dancing cats, dogs, and dragons.

For some, dressing up plays a large part of the convention – almost 300 brought a full costume. There are few professional mascots here, though, and only one or two of the costumes would be recognized by even the most avid cartoon-watcher. Instead, each act is planned and performed by other attendees, wearing “fursuits” of their own design. Many play off the year’s secret-agent theme — “Fur Your Eyes Only”.

Some attendees are very young

Other fans seem content to restrict themselves to small accessories — perhaps some combination of paws, ears, or tail. Each fur bears a 3″x2″ badge detailing their personal character, or “fursona”. Often these characters are better-known than the people who play them.

Not all costumes are furry, as shown by these Cats fans

It may seem lighthearted, even frivolous, but these conventions are becoming big business. Furry fans spent over $180,000 for lodging during the five days (Jan 18-22) of Further Confusion, and another $50,000 at the art auction. Attendees also purchase all manner of merchandise from attending dealers and artists, from on-the-spot art commissions and comic books of all ratings to prints, sculptures, and plush toys – even their very own fluffy tail.

Of course, any business has risk, and conventions can drain wallets when the sums just don’t add up. The first furry con, ConFurence in Southern California, ran successfully for over a decade, but cost its new organizer an estimated $60,000 in its last four years due to falling attendance before folding in 2003.

Anthropomorphic Arts and Education board member Peter Torkelson says that won’t happen to Further Confusion. Indeed, the convention ran a healthy surplus of almost $30,000 on $125,000 revenue last year, allowing it to pay off the last of its old debts and save for the future. As Torkelson explains: “The idea is if for some reason, say an earthquake happens, and it cripples the revenue stream, the convention will be able to survive into the next year. It does help our staff to know that we have [a reserve].”

Furry fandom attracts businesses to Anthrocon, held in Pennsylvania since 1999

The reserve also gives AAE the financial flexibility to fund charities throughout the year, a big part of its 501(c)(3) mandate. Over the nine years of the convention, attendees have raised over $60,000 for a variety of animal sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Further Confusion’s hopes for the future are high. Chairwoman Laura Cherry noted that, unlike previous years, the board has “gone all out” for next year’s tenth anniversary, booking as many rooms as the hotel could offer. The host for 2009 has yet to be decided, but for many fans the question was not whether the current hotel will reach a limit, but when – and where – the convention will find a new home.

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November 1, 2006

Bomb explodes at PayPal headquarters

Bomb explodes at PayPal headquarters – Wikinews, the free news source

Bomb explodes at PayPal headquarters

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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A bomb exploded at 7:24 pm on Tuesday at the PayPal headquarters, a subsidiary of eBay, located in San Jose, California, causing the evacuation of employees from the building. Authorities stated that the explosion was “not an accident.” Spokespeople for eBay said that the incident was “isolated” and that there were no injuries or deaths reported.

“It’s definitely not an accident. Everything else there is accounted for. This was not any kind of accident or malfunction,” said San Jose Police Sgt. Nick Muyo. He added that authorities have yet to find any kind of explosive device or material.

“We believe this is an isolated incident. We’re working closely with local authorities. We have everything under control,” said Amanda Pires, a spokeswoman for the PayPal division of the company.

The blast was seen from the street and was located in an area where workers take breaks. The initial damage reported was a broken window near the blast site.

Fire officials do not yet know the specifics of the bomb’s makeup.

“Whatever it was, it disintegrated. Whatever caused this was pretty strong,” said San Jose Fire Department Captain Jose Guerrero.

The San Jose Police are working with agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but it is reported that the San Jose Police are in charge of investigating the blast. There are no suspects at this time.

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June 22, 2006

San Jose mayor Gonzales indicted on six counts

San Jose mayor Gonzales indicted on six counts

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

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Ron Gonzales, the mayor of San Jose, California, and his financial aide, Joe Guerra, were indicted by a criminal grand jury on June 22 on six undisclosed charges. Gonzales and Guerra surrendered to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department Thursday morning, where they were processed and released on bail. While the indictment has been sealed, the grand jury was investigating Gonzales’s role in an $11 million contract amendment with Norcal Waste Systems. The County District Attorney has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 p.m. Friday PDT on the indictment. Gonzales and Guerra will appear before the county’s superior court for a hearing on Monday, June 26.

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March 3, 2006

Emergency at JDS Uniphase in San Jose, CA

Emergency at JDS Uniphase in San Jose, CA

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Friday, March 3, 2006

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The San Jose, California fire department and Hazardous Materials crews today responded to a chemical emergency at a JDS Uniphase manufacturing facility. The incident, at 80 Rose Orchard Drive, off North First St., sent between 15 and 17 people, including two firefighters, to the hospital with symptoms and for observation.

Those exposed to the hazard reported a smell of “burnt rubber”, along with symptoms of eye and throat irritation.

Over 48 others were held in a nearby building while the incident was assessed. Rose Orchard Way was closed for much of the day while emergency crews responded. Estimates put the incident at about 10 a.m. (1800 UTC).

As of 6 p.m. television news reports, authorities still had not determined the source or nature of the chemical, but said neighboring buildings were not in danger.

JDS Uniphase manufactures fiber optic communications and test equipment, and was formed from a merger of JDS FITEL and Uniphase Corporation in 1999.

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December 22, 2005

Calpine declares bankruptcy, cites natural gas prices

Calpine declares bankruptcy, cites natural gas prices

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

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Electrical power generator Calpine Corporation declared bankruptcy on Tuesday. The San Jose, California based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Federal Court, to facilitate debt restructuring and to allow for normal operations to continue. Calpine has obtained secured debtor-in-possession financing from Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse First Boston totaling $2 billion. The company announced that some of its Canadian subsidiaries would also file for creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. Calpine and its subsidiaries operate natural gas and geothermal electricity generating plants in 21 U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces.

The recent rise in natural gas prices due to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina has pushed Calpine’s cost significantly above the locked in selling price for its long-term contracts. Calpine has asked the court to void eight long term contracts, including a 20-year contract entered into with the State of California’s Department of Water Resources and Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 2001.

The company received permission on December 21 from the Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to use $500 million of its financing to continue operating and to keep paying its employees’ salaries and benefits.

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Technology Brief for December 22, 2005

Technology Brief for December 22, 2005 – Wikinews, the free news source

Technology Brief for December 22, 2005

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Seagate Technology has said it intends to buy rival company Maxtor for $1.9 billion. Both companies produce hard drives. The deal, priced at 60% of Maxtor’s closing share price, is intended to acquire Maxtor’s customers, not its technology.

Seagate, which also makes drives for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, will have over 40% of the hard drive market share. The Scotts Valley, California, based Seagate had 30% of the hard drive market.

Provided the deal makes it past regulatory committees, Maxtor shareholders will receive .37 of a share of Seagate common stock for every 1 share of the Milpitas based company.

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