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November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

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Passenger dies in chain-reaction collision on 10 Freeway in Ontario – San Bernardino Sun

November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

A passenger died after being caught in the middle of a three-vehicle crash in Ontario on Wednesday, Nov. 13, the California Highway Patrol said.

The collisions were reported about 10:20 a.m. on the eastbound 10 Freeway west of Mountain Avenue. A tractor-trailer traveling at what the CHP said was an unsafe speed rear-ended a Nissan Rogue, which then rear-ended a Honda Civic.

One passenger in the Nissan died. A 2-year-old passenger and the driver were taken to Pomona Valley Hospital with minor to moderate injuries. The driver of the Honda was taken to the same hospital with minor injuries.

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Woman dies in 15 Freeway crash in Temescal Valley – San Bernardino Sun

November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

A 42-year-old woman died in a crash along the 15 Freeway in Temescal Valley on Tuesday, Nov. 12, authorities said.

The crash happened about 12:20 p.m. when the 2004 Toyota Tacoma, being driven at a “high rate of speed” by a 19-year-old, went off the right edge of the northbound lanes and overturned several times north of Temescal Canyon Road, the California Highway Patrol said.

A passenger, Katie Towery, died at 12:38 p.m., the Riverside County Coroner’s Office said. Towery was the mother of the driver.

The 19-year-old was hospitalized with moderate to major injuries, the CHP said.

The CHP news release said Katie Towery lived in Hemet. A post on her Facebook page said she moved to Temecula in August. Towery listed her occupation as a housekeeper at Pechanga Resort Casino and said she attended Mt. San Jacinto College and Hemet High.

The CHP asked witnesses to call the accident investigation unit at 951-637-8000.

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Former medical correspondent arrested in LA on suspicion of asking girl for sexually suggestive photos – San Bernardino Sun

November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

LOS ANGELES – Dr. Bruce Hensel, an Emmy-winning former television medical correspondent in Los Angeles and New York, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of asking a 9-year old girl to send him sexually suggestive photos.

Hensel, 71, was detained about 10:15 a.m. by Los Angeles Police Department Juvenile Division investigators in the 9600 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Jail records show Hensel was booked around noon, with his bail set at $5,000.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Hensel was charged Wednesday with one felony count of contact with a minor for sexual purposes. Prosecutors said Hensel allegedly contacted the girl — the daughter of an acquaintance — on Aug. 4 using an online messaging app and asked her to send him suggestive photos.

An arraignment date has not yet been set.

LAPD officials said investigators with the Los Angeles Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force served a search warrant at Hensel’s Pacific Palisades home on Oct. 16.

Police said the investigation focused on “inappropriate messages and photographs” being shared “between a child and a person believed to be Bruce Hensel.”

If convicted as charged, Hensel faces up to 18 months in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

According to an online biography, Hensel won multiple Emmy Awards while serving as chief medical correspondent for NBC4. He recently produced and directed a Showtime documentary titled “Beyond the Opposite Sex,” focused on transgender relationships.

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Four things to know about this weekend’s California Democratic Party convention in Long Beach – San Bernardino Sun

November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

Roughly 5,000 political activists — including some who are running for president — are expected to turn out in Long Beach this weekend for the California Democratic Party’s 2019 Fall Endorsing Convention.

The event, which will emphasize issues of importance to Latino voters, will take over the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center starting Thursday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 17.

Here are four things to know about the Democratic convention.

Party will take sides, gear up for 2020

The purpose of the convention is for the California Democratic Party to endorse candidates, adopt a party platform on key issues, and gear up for the 2020 election.

To that end, the event will kick off Thursday with closed-door training for volunteers on issues such as the Census, fundraising, polling and voter registration.

On Friday and Saturday, the party’s committees and caucuses will meet to discuss state ballot measures, individual candidates, and a 30-page proposed platform for 2020 that covers everything from universal health care to a state ban on assault weapons. And on Sunday, more than 3,000 delegates representing nearly 9 million registered Democrats across California, will discuss, debate and vote on those candidates and platform.

Presidential forum, minus two big names

The big event of the weekend is Saturday’s televised Presidential Forum, put on by the state party and Spanish-language news channel Univision.

Network anchor Jorge Ramos will host along with Ilia Calderon and Leon Krauze from Univision’s flagship local station, KMEX. Rather than lead a round-robin style debate, the journalists will take turns asking the candidates questions individually.

The state party and Univision picked eight candidates for the forum using a formula based on polling and grassroots support. Invitations went out to Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

But two of those candidates, Biden and Warren, declined. That sparked backlash from state party chair Rusty Hicks, who wrote in a series of tweets that Biden and Warren should reconsider their “misguided decision to publicly snub California’s Democrats & Latino Voters across the nation,” stating that they “just might” need California activists’ support in the general election. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and San Francisco megadonor Tom Steyer took the place of Biden and Warren on the stage.

Other Democratic presidential candidates who didn’t make the cut for evening forum on Saturday have been invited to speak during the general session that morning. Marianne Williamson, John Delaney and Joe Sestak are expected to take the stage at that event, along with prominent Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and labor leaders such as California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd.

Tickets are sold out

While delegates can still register to attend the convention, “observer passes” for the general public to watch the general session and presidential forum are sold out.

The forum will air live from 4 to 6 p.m. on Univision’s TV, radio and online platforms.

The Southern California News Group will also be sharing coverage of the general session, presidential forum and Sunday’s endorsements on and our other websites.

Events also planned around convention

Many of the candidates and groups participating in the convention will take advantage of the opportunity to also host events in Southern California this weekend.

In various rooms around the convention center Saturday night, Jewish Democratic groups will serve up frozen treats, tribal leaders will offer desserts and wine, and the California Nurses Association will have a DJ, beef sliders and a photo booth.

Harris will host events Friday night at nearby Portuguese Bend Distilling and Hamburger Mary’s.

Sanders is also holding a free public rally at noon Saturday in Salazar Park. The band Ozomatli is slated to perform.

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UC workers protest outsourcing, a strategy they say is whittling union jobs one by one – San Bernardino Sun

November 14, 2019 in San Bernandino

Thousands of University of California service and patient care workers fanned out across the school’s 10 California campuses and five medical centers Wednesday, protesting UC’s practice of outsourcing jobs to lower-wage contract workers.

Local protests took place at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, UC Riverside and UC Irvine Medical Center.

In Los Angeles, an estimated 300 employees represented by the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees Local 3299 gathered in front of the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, eventually making their way down Westwood Boulevard. Armed with picket signs reading “On strike for unfair labor practice,” they chanted, “Go home, go home — UC’s greed has got to go!”

AFSCME Local 3299 represents about 26,000 UC employees throughout the state. Service workers range from security guards and cooks to custodians and truck drivers, while patient care technical employees include jobs such as nurse aids, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists and patient transporters.

Jose Gonzalez, a respiratory therapist at the Ronald Reagan facility, said outsourcing is on the rise. He’s seen it first-hand.

“Little by little, they have increased the number of people being outsourced,” he said. “That’s giving them the power to replace us.”

Hilene Trejo watched the UCLA procession pass by and expressed dismay at the thought of local jobs being lost.

“I’m surprised,”  the 26-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “I didn’t know this was happening. People need jobs here, so I don’t know why jobs would be outsourced — especially at UC.”

Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino, right, and Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, center, join students and workers, represented by AFSCME Local 3299, in a rally at the UC Riverside campus on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. The employees are protesting UC’s practice of outsourcing jobs. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Minimal disruption

In a statement released Wednesday, UCLA said it took preemptive measures to ensure the strike would cause minimal disruption.

“Prior to the strike, UCLA Health retained temporary contract staff with extensive qualifications and experience,” the school said. “A limited number of outpatient and elective procedures — such as diagnostic imaging — were re-scheduled for times either before or after the strike.”

UC’s contract offer

UC spokesman Andrew Gordon said the number of AFSCME-represented employees has grown by double digits in the past five years.

“UC’s contracts with AFSCME protect employees from displacement due to contracting, and no employee can be terminated as a result of a subcontracting decision,” Gordon said via email. “We hope AFSCME will return to the table to negotiate after this strike, as it is the only union without a contract — UC has reached agreements with seven other unions in the past two years.”

Despite that assurance, the union recently filed six new charges that allege the school has secretly expanded its outsourcing of AFSCME-represented service and patient care jobs to low-wage contractors while evading its legal disclosure and bargaining obligations. Recently disclosed documentation, the union said, provides dozens of examples of UC circumventing its own competitive bidding policies in order to avoid negotiating with its own employees.

UC’s latest contract offer includes:

  • A guaranteed 3% to 3.5% raise each year in addition to increases based on experience
  • The same health insurance rates as other employees, plus a $25 cap on monthly increases for two of UC’s most popular health insurance plans
  • Generous pension benefits that most employers no longer offer (This proposal aligns with the compensation of other university employees, according to UC)

UC Riverside

At UC Riverside, a gathering of nearly 100 AFSCME workers walked along the main thoroughfare Wednesday, chanting, “Whose university? Our university!”

Union members there said they respect the students and the university’s mission and didn’t want to stop regular campus activities. Jessie Hermandez, a senior cook who has worked on the UC Riverside campus for 20 years, said they want to get the word out about their negotiation struggles.

“We want to make sure we have job stability,” he said. “Right now we have 20,000 workers vs. 10,000 outsourced workers. Who’s to say that in five years it won’t be 15,000 outsourced workers?”

UC Irvine

Nearly 200 protesters also marched through the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, blowing vuvuzelas and chanting “We run UC.”

At the union’s rally by the center’s administrative offices, state and local politicians voiced their support for the strike.

“Thank you for being courageous — thank you for standing up for workers,” State Sen. Connie Levya, D-Chino, told the protesting workers.

Rosa Barron Bejar, 48, who works at the center as a quality assurance employee, is afraid outsourcing could potentially take her job away.

“I feel I’m entitled to the rights I’ve earned for the last 20 years,” she said. “I need the same loyalty I have provided to UCI, and I need it back from UCI.”

Charmagne Stewart, who witnessed Wednesday’s protest at UCLA, offered a more nuanced take on the situation.

“I feel bad for these employees … but this is commonplace in America,” the 53-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “This is the way our country was designed. If labor becomes too expensive we have to look somewhere else, whether it’s out of the country or just to another labor source.”

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Truckers file suit, challenge state’s new limits on freelance, gig work – San Bernardino Sun

November 13, 2019 in San Bernandino

SACRAMENTO  — The California Trucking Association on Tuesday filed what appears to be the first lawsuit challenging a sweeping new labor law that seeks to give wage and benefit protections to workers in the so-called gig economy, including rideshare drivers at companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The legislation violates federal law and would deprive more than 70,000 independent truckers of their ability to work, the association said. Many would have to abandon $150,000 investments in clean trucks and the right to set their own schedules in order for companies to comply with a law it says illegally infringes on interstate commerce.

“Independent truckers are typically experienced drivers who have previously worked as employees and have, by choice, struck out on their own. We should not deprive them of that choice,” association CEO Shawn Yadon said in a statement.

The law set to take effect Jan. 1 makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation.

“We expect big corporate interests — especially those who have misclassified their workers for years — to take this fight back to the place they know they can delay justice for workers: the courts,” the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, said in a statement.

Her office said it’s apparently the first such lawsuit, although Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have said they will spend $90 million on a 2020 ballot measure opposing the law if they can’t negotiate other rules for their drivers. Uber also said it will keep treating its drivers as independent contractors and defend that decision in court if needed.

The law could also affect construction workers, janitors and home health aides. But the law’s effect on ridesharing and meal delivery drivers has received the most attention because those companies pay their drivers on a per-ride basis and don’t provide benefits such as health insurance and paid leave.

The law implements a legal ruling last year by the California Supreme Court regarding workers at the delivery company Dynamex.

The court set a new, three-prong test for companies to use when determining how to classify their workers. To be labeled a contractor, a worker must be free from control of the company; performing work “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business”; and engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work they are performing.

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These San Bernardino, San Fernando Valley, Long Beach service agencies will get a piece of $4 million in mental health grants – San Bernardino Sun

November 13, 2019 in San Bernandino

LOS ANGELES — Dignity Health and the UniHealth Foundation announced a $4 million grant program Wednesday aimed at providing mental-health awareness training for Southern California school staffers and parents.

The Cultural Trauma and Mental Health Resiliency Project is aimed at adults who regularly interact with youth, “particularly youth of color,” to detect signs of mental distress and help them cope with trauma.

“Our health is affected by poverty, racism, adverse childhood experiences and violence,” said Dr. Lynn Yonekura, director of community health at Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center. “We know that trauma and mental health issues can contribute to stress-related illnesses, such as mood and anxiety disorders, substance use disorders and suicide.

“Linking youth to the mental health resources they need is one way we are helping schools to decrease disciplinary referrals, decrease the suicide rate, decrease absenteeism and increase on-time graduation,” Yonekura said.

The $4 million in grants will be spread over three years, with funds provided to various community service agencies. The first round of grants, totaling $759,000, will be provided to nine organizations to provide training to 80 staffers. Those staffers in turn will train 7,200 people who regularly interact with youth in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

The initial grant recipients are:

— Amanecer Community Counseling Service, Los Angeles;

— National Alliance of Mental Illness Los Angeles County;

— San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center;

— Tarzana Treatment Centers;

— NAMI San Fernando Valley;

— NAMI Long Beach Area;

— NAMI Glendale;

— Glendale Youth Alliance; and

— Making Hope Happen Foundation, San Bernardino.

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California regulators order inquiry into power outages – San Bernardino Sun

November 13, 2019 in San Bernandino


SAN FRANCISCO — California regulators opened a formal investigation Wednesday into pre-emptive power outages that blacked out large parts of the state in October, drawing strong rebukes from public officials and residents who said the shut-offs were too broad and poorly executed.

The unanimous vote by the California Public Utilities Commission followed testimony from a handful of people who pleaded with the regulatory body for leadership at a time of increased danger from fire and other natural disasters.

“Many Californians are debating whether California is still safe. Is this a safe place to live?” said Will Abrams of Santa Rosa, whose house burned down in 2017 in wildfires that roared through Northern California wine country.

The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., initiated multiple rounds of shut-offs and plunged nearly 2.5 million people into darkness at one point throughout Northern and Central California. Some of the outages lasted for several days.

PG&E officials insisted on the shut-offs for public safety, but infuriated residents and a parade of public officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, said cutting off power should be used only as a last resort and that the company regularly botched communications.

Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. also shut off power but to far fewer people.

Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum said Wednesday that her rural community had no working phones or internet. She wants local control over the power grid, which she said could take better care than the for-profit utility.

“Basically, we were sent back into the dark ages,” she said.

The outages raised concerns about whether the utilities “properly balanced the need to provide reliable service with public safety and were properly planned and executed,” said the order authorizing the investigation.

CPUC President Marybel Batjer requested the investigation, saying that widespread outages “cannot be the new normal for California.”

Commissioners said Wednesday that they want to know if utilities took the proper steps and what can be done to improve such shut-offs or lessen their scope in the future.

Abrams not only lost his home in the 2017 wildfires, but his children had to endure smoke from a deadly 2018 wildfire in Paradise. Last month, the family evacuated from another Sonoma County wildfire and were terrified to cross into the San Francisco Bay Area amid smaller grassland fires sparked by PG&E lines falling amid high, hot winds, he said.

“The wonderful thing about regulators is you can cut through the rhetoric,” he said.

Commissioners have been stewing over the outages.

Last month, they grilled PG&E officials at an emergency meeting called by Batjer, demanding answers for why the utility was so unprepared for an Oct. 9 shutdown in which counties and customers struggled with a crashing website and overworked call lines to get information.

Batjer said she was “absolutely astounded” by the company’s lack of preparation.

When many cell towers were down and internet services out, the utility was telling people to get information from a website, through family or call on a landline.

The outages were astonishing for a state that is one of the world’s economic powerhouses. People made frantic dashes for cash and gas as businesses watched their goods spoil. Some elderly and disabled people were trapped in their apartments with elevators out of service.

PG&E initiated five rounds, with the smallest affecting about 30,000 people and the largest affecting nearly 2.5 million. Residents in San Francisco suburbs and in Northern California wine country were without power for days.

Bill Johnson, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., said the outages were the right call and kept people safe, although a transmission line in Sonoma County that was not powered off malfunctioned minutes before a wildfire erupted Oct. 23, forcing about 180,000 people to evacuate.

The company is in bankruptcy and faces $30 billion in liabilities after its equipment was found to have started several deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018, including the year-old Camp Fire that killed 85 in Butte County.

In September, PG&E reached an $11 billion settlement with most of the insurers covering victims of deadly wildfires, but Newsom is stepping up pressure on PG&E to fork over billions more.

If PG&E doesn’t make changes, Newsom is threatening to try to turn the utility into a customer-owned cooperative run by the state and local governments. The company so far has defended its proposal as a fair deal for all parties involved in its bankruptcy.

Southern California Edison also initiated five preventive outages but to far fewer customers. The company has announced that its equipment likely caused last year’s Woolsey Fire, which killed three people and destroyed hundreds of homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

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Trump and Erdogan meet amid strained U.S.-Turkey relations – San Bernardino Sun

November 13, 2019 in San Bernandino


WASHINGTON — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump met Wednesday as relations between the NATO allies are at their lowest point in decades, with Turkey drifting closer to Russia and Ankara facing a Washington backlash over its offensive against Kurds in Syria.

Erdogan and Trump have a difficult agenda. They will discuss Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian air defense system despite its membership in NATO and its incursion into neighboring Syria to attack Kurdish forces who have fought with the U.S. against the Islamic State group. The issues threaten to jeopardize a potentially lucrative trade deal between the two countries.

The leaders’ scheduled afternoon news conference, following a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House, will give Trump a stage to counter the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. Just before warmly welcoming Erdogan to the White House, Trump tweeted that the House Democrats were “trying to stop me, because I’m fighting for you. And I’ll never let that happen.”

Trump notes Turkey has been a critical U.S. ally for decades and cites the economic upside to the relationship as a reason to overcome the differences. Some lawmakers say Erdogan should never have been invited to the White House in the first place.

Last month, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill to sanction senior Turkish officials and its army for the military incursion into Syria to fight the Kurds. Erdogan sees Kurdish forces in Syria as an extension of a separatist Kurdish group that’s been fighting inside Turkey since the 1980s.

“This is not the time or place to be extending hospitality and exchanging niceties with a dictator,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees.

In the Senate, two Democrats introduced legislation denouncing Turkey’s targeting of journalists, political opponents, dissidents, minorities and others. They said the Turkish government had imprisoned more than 80,000 Turkish citizens, closed more than 1,500 non-governmental organizations on terrorism-related grounds and dismissed or suspended more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.

In October, Trump moved U.S. troops in Syria out of the way of invading Turkish troops, a decision that critics said amounted to abandoning America’s Kurdish allies to be attacked.

“It has upended what was an oasis of stability, damaged U.S. credibility and standing on the world stage and strengthened the hands of Russia, Iran” and the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, Shaheen said.

Trump administration officials have said the president told Turkey not to invade Syria. But when Erdogan insisted, they say, Trump decided to move 28 Green Berets operating on the Turkey-Syria border so they wouldn’t be caught in a crossfire between Turkish-backed forces and the Kurds.

A State Department official said Trump is not rewarding Erdogan with a White House visit but is conducting diplomacy. The official said high-level consultations are needed because of the volatile situation in Syria that has displaced tens of thousands of people.

Amnesty International recently released a report documenting killings, human rights violations and possible war crimes caused by Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria.

“There has been a callous disregard for civilian lives, including attacks on residential areas,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Over 100,000 people have fled this offensive and there are fears that the displaced are not getting access to food, to clear water, or to medical supplies.”

She said Trump must send a message to Erdogan that these actions and unlawful behavior must stop and that those responsible be held accountable.

A senior State Department official said that the U.S. is following up on reports of human rights violations and indiscriminate killings. The official was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Turkey to investigate reported cases of summary executions committed by a Turkish-backed armed group in northern Syria. The U.N. cited video footage showing fighters with the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group filming themselves capturing and executing three Kurdish captives on a highway in northern Syria.

The State Department has looked into these killings and has asked Turkey to investigate. The Turks have told the U.S. that the Syrians have set up a commission, the official said, but it’s unclear what, if any, action the panel will take.

Turkey reached truce agreements with Russia and the United States last month that halted the incursion and forced Kurdish fighters to retreat from Turkey’s southern border. But Erdogan claims the Kurds have not vacated border areas and says he will give Trump a list of attacks carried out by Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish-led force.

On the U.S. side, Trump will be expressing continued concern about Erdogan’s purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system. The U.S. and fellow NATO nations say the S-400 would aid Russian intelligence and compromise a U.S.-led fighter jet program.

The U.S. has since kicked Erdogan out of a multinational program producing components of America’s high-tech F-35 fighter jet. In response, Erdogan attended an annual Russian air show this summer in Moscow and expressed interest in buying the latest Russian Su-35 fighter jets.

Trump has not yet decided whether to impose congressional sanctions on Turkey for the S-400 purchase.

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