State judge paves path for higher PG&E bills — starting this spring

OAKLAND — PG&E customers face the forbidding prospect of higher monthly bills — starting this spring — now that a state law judge has smoothed out the pathway for interim rate relief for PG&E. An administrative law judge for the state Public Utilities Commission has issued a proposed decision that clears the way for the PUC commissioners to make a final decision in March that would authorize PG&E to extract more money from customers. Law Judge Camille Watts-Zagha issued the proposal. PG&E customers could be paying $4 to $6 more a month for their utility service if the powerful five-member PUC panel agrees with the proposal issued by the PUC law judge, estimated Mark Toney, executive director of the The higher bills could take effect in April or May if the PUC agrees with the proposed ruling. “PG&E is authorized to recover a maximum of $516 million (75 percent of PG&E’s total request of $688 million) in interim rates,” Judge Watts-Zagha stated in her proposed decision. The PUC is slated to meet in early March to decide on the judge’s proposed ruling. Oakland-based PG&E wants

Analysis: What the border bill would and wouldn’t do

Analysis by Catherine E. Shoichet | CNN Just about everyone agrees that whatever US immigration system is supposed to exist at the southern border — and beyond it — is badly broken. The number of unauthorized immigrants crossing the border keeps reaching record highs. The backlog of cases in US immigration courts has soared past 3 million. People trying to immigrate legally to the US face a maze of bureaucracy and lengthy delays. A group of bipartisan senators and White House officials say they’ve negotiated a deal that would solve some of these problems. If passed, the measures would amount to some of the most significant changes in US immigration policy in decades. That’s certainly a big if. While President Joe Biden has said he’ll sign the legislation, former President Donald Trump is pushing GOP lawmakers not to pass it. And House Republican leaders have called it “dead on arrival” even if it clears the Senate. Still, this is a moment when it’s important to pay attention. At a time when problems at the border often grab headlines, this deal — released Sunday evening after

Castro Valley man killed in crash on I-5 Grapevine

A Castro Valley man was killed last week in a single-vehicle crash on the Grapevine section of Interstate 5, the California Highway Patrol said. The driver in the Jan. 28 crash was initially identified by the CHP only as a 65-year-old man; on Monday, Feb. 5, the Kern County coroner’s office named him as Myong Kim. The wreck was reported at 12:40 a.m. on northbound Interstate 5 near the Lebec off-ramp. A Honda Accord went through a chain-link fence separating the freeway from a service road and overturned, the CHP said, and the driver was ejected. Kim is believed to have been the only occupant of the car. The CHP said alcohol or drugs were not thought to be a factor.

Pedestrian walking on major avenue in San Pablo dead after collision with vehicle

SAN PABLO — A man walking on a major avenue died early Tuesday after being hit by a car, police said. The initial investigation did not indicate any signs that the driver who hit the man was impaired when the collision happened about 3:05 a.m. on San Pablo Avenue, according to a statement from San Pablo police spokesperson Peggy Chou. The driver and a passenger in the vehicle were not injured and cooperated with police at the scene. The pedestrian died at the scene despite rescue efforts. Authorities did not identify him early Tuesday, pending the notification of his relatives. According to Chou, police have determined that the driver was going north on San Pablo Avenue and was north of Broadway Avenue when the vehicle hit the man. Police said the pedestrian was in the roadway. Police closed San Pablo Avenue between Broadway and Rumrill Boulevard to investigate. Chou did not say when they expected to open it, but it remained closed at 9 a.m. Please check back for updates.

Valentine’s Day: 3 new Bay Area chocolate shops

Can you love more than one? We’re talking chocolate makers. Even chocoholics long devoted to a particular brand know there’s always room for a new ganache-filled bonbon, a new single-origin bar or a new flavor twist. So, for this Valentine’s Day, we offer a few new Bay Area options: chocolate bars made with a chef’s touch, Italian chocolates finally available here in California and some of Belgium’s best, crafted from century-old recipes. And if you want to make the gift extra-special, add tickets for the San Francisco Chocolate Salon, an April 7 tasting extravaganza. Find more information and order at Minée Chocolate, Menlo Park Minée Chocolate’s bars are made in Menlo Park with organic cacao beans sourced from Ecuador. (Photo courtesy of Minée Chocolate)  Inspiration struck Menlo Park-based chef Michael Sigmon when he saw a vendor selling custom chocolate at his local farmers market. Having worked for years in restaurants, as a private chef and at his own Windmill Cafe in Santa Cruz, he was ready for a new chapter. He decided he wanted to try making his own chocolate from scratch. Now, after

Quick Cook: Cherry-filled ‘Laura’ Bars are easy to make at home

These simple, five-ingredient energy bars are inspired by LÄRABAR’s Cherry Pie flavor snack bars and take even less time to make than it would to drive to the store to buy them. Dried tart cherries pack a puckery punch in terms of both flavor and energy, and the almonds, flax and chia seeds add healthy fats, protein and fiber. You can cut them to whatever size suits your fancy — a bite-sized pick-me-up, a medium sized school snack or a larger bar to fuel that challenging hike or long commute. They last a couple weeks in the fridge and can just be tossed into a reusable snack bag when taking them on the go. Fruits and nuts are ground in a food processor for this easy recipe, but the specific ingredients are certainly adaptable. Feel free to try different dried fruits, nuts or seeds for a variety of flavor combinations — mango cashew, perhaps, or apple cinnamon walnut. The chia seeds help bind the bars, so I do recommend including them. Laura Bars Makes 12 to 20 bars, depending on size INGREDIENTS 1 cup dried

Todrick Hall lists his California mansion for $7.3 million

A Sherman Oaks home owned by the singer, choreographer and reality TV star Todrick Hall has hit the market for $7.25 million. The 8,000-square-foot house has five bedrooms, eight bathrooms and a spacious great room with glass walls that opens to the terraced backyard. Records show Hall bought the property in May 2022 for $6.1 million, 19% more than its asking price, although it initially surfaced for sale at $8.5 million in December. It’s also available for a monthly lease of $29,500. Built on an over-three-quarter-acre lot in 2018, the house has a dining room with a bar and a fireplace in the living room. The gourmet kitchen has top-of-the-line appliances, a double oven, an espresso machine and a pantry with a utility sink. A second kitchen is on the lower level, along with a home theater Pocket doors open from both sides of the primary suite on the upper level, which is accessible by a floating staircase or elevator. The suite features a fireplace, a seating area with a wet bar and a balcony that overlooks the pool, which boasts a see-through glass wall.

Woman charged with sexually assaulting 2 youth hockey players at Minnesota hotel

A 38-year-old Blaine, Minnesota woman was charged Friday with criminal sexual conduct after allegedly having sexual contact with juvenile boys in town last month for a hockey tournament. Allison Leigh Schardin (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)  The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged Allison Leigh Schardin with one count each of criminal sexual assault in the third and fourth degree. Both charges involve two 15-year-old boys. According to the criminal complaint, the contact occurred when Schardin and her family were taking a “staycation” at a Roseville hotel in the 2500 block of Cleveland Avenue North. Team members from a boys hockey team were staying at the same hotel. Schardin spoke with members of the team in the hotel’s pool area Jan. 14. She later messaged one of the boys on Snapchat and asked to go to his room, according to the charges. At the room, Schardin asked the boys their ages and told them they were young enough to be her kids. She then had sexual contact with two of the boys, the charges state. The two boys said they felt pressured and eventually

California could legalize psychedelic therapy after rejecting ‘magic mushroom’ decriminalization

By TRÂN NGUYỄN | Associated Press SACRAMENTO — A pair of California lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill on Tuesday to allow people 21 and older to consume psychedelic mushrooms under professional supervision as part of an agenda to tackle the state’s mental health and substance use crises. It comes after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year vetoed legislation that would have decriminalized the possession and personal use of several plant-based hallucinogens, including psychedelic mushrooms. It was the first time the proposal by Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener made it through the legislature after years of stalling. In his veto message, Newsom, who championed legalizing cannabis in 2016, asked lawmakers to work on therapeutic guidelines and regulations. Now Wiener has teamed up with Republican Assemblymember Marie Waldron on a proposal to allow participations to consume psilocybin — the hallucinogenic component in what’s known as psychedelic mushrooms — under the supervision of a licensed therapist. The bill also would include dimethyltryptamine (DMT), MDMA and mescaline. Colorado and Oregon have already decriminalized psychedelic mushrooms and establish regulated systems for therapeutic use of the substances. In California, San Francisco, Oakland

Palo Alto to focus on small business rebound in 2024

While there is a semblance of normalcy on the mom-and-pop shop lined California and University avenues in Palo Alto today, many businesses are still struggling to stay open nearly four years after COVID-19 hit the Bay Area. Businesses here grapple with rising inflation and operational costs, and looking for new customers after regular patrons have all but disappeared as employees continue to work from home. This is why the Palo Alto City Council last week identified economy recovery for small businesses among its priorities for 2024, along with climate change, housing and community health. At ZombieRunner Coffee, a popular spot among workers around California Avenue, it has been a rollercoaster ride of sorts for owners Gillian Robinson and Don Lundell. While business has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, the cafe’s sales are in good shape, Robinson told this news organization. With many customers working remotely and some companies closing down entirely, ZombieRunner pivoted to marketing their drinks and whole bean coffee on their website to supplement the revenue loss. “Business is starting picking up,” Robinson said. Palo Alto Mayor Greer Stone, who recently began a

Word Game: Feb. 6, 2024

TODAY’S WORD — ASPECT (ASPECT: AS-pekt: Appearance to the mind or eye.) Average mark 22 words Time limit 30 minutes Can you find 27 or more words in ASPECT? The list will be published tomorrow. YESTERDAY’S WORD — BEAUTIFY bait bate beat beatify beau beauty befit beta bite byte etui abet abut tuba tube tufa fate feat feta fiat yeti To purchase the Word Game book, visit Order it now for just $5 while supplies last! RULES OF THE GAME: 1. Words must be of four or more letters. 2. Words that acquire four letters by the addition of “s,” such as “bats” or “dies,” are not allowed. 3. Additional words made by adding a “d” or an “s” may not be used. For example, if “bake” is used, “baked” or “bakes” are not allowed, but “bake” and “baking” are admissible. 4. Proper nouns, slang words, or vulgar or sexually explicit words are not allowed. Contact Word Game creator Kathleen Saxe at

Bridge: Feb. 6, 2024

“I read,” Cy the Cynic told me, “that when one sense is impaired, another may be heightened. A blind person may have an acute sense of hearing.” I nodded. “That may explain,” the Cynic growled, “why my partners with an inflated sense of self-esteem have lousy card sense.” Cy was today’s North in a penny game. When he leaped to four spades, South bid six. “West led the king of diamonds,” Cy said, “and my partner took the ace and started a crossruff. He won the first 10 tricks — he ruffed two clubs with high trumps — but with West left with the J-7-6 of trumps, partner ended a trick short.” MAKEABLE? “I think the slam is makeable,” Cy said, “but not on a crossruff. Partner’s card sense was lacking.” South can take the ace of trumps at Trick Two, lead a club to the ace, ruff a club with the king and lead a low trump. West wins and leads a diamond. South ruffs in dummy and ruffs a club with the queen of trumps. He draws trumps with dummy’s ten and runs

Ask Amy: My wife nixed my Hobbit plan, so what do I do with the unlucky ring?

Dear Amy: My question certainly isn’t life-threatening, but it is driving me nuts. I was married for 10 years, divorced for 13, and have been happily remarried for seven. My first marriage was annulled after the divorce. Recently, my wife found my old wedding ring while cleaning out a junk drawer. I thought it had gone missing years ago. I told her I didn’t want it and said that we needed to get rid of it. She says I should take it to a pawn shop. I have two great sons out of my first marriage, but other than that, the ring represents 10 years of acrimony and chaos. I’m a non-practicing Catholic, but symbolism is still important to me, and I cannot see putting the ring back into circulation. I wanted to hire a Hobbit to schlep the ring across Mordor and toss it into the Lake of Fire. My wife says we cannot afford a Hobbit and so I need to come up with another plan. What is the best way to take care of this? – Superstitious Dear Superstitious: I love the

Harriette Cole: I’m worried I did something to upset the other mom

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a mother of two daughters, and I’ve developed a close friendship with another mom in my neighborhood who also has two daughters the same ages as mine. We’ve been meeting for coffee every Tuesday for the past year. However, over the past month, my friend has unexpectedly canceled our coffee dates with what seem like unusual excuses. While I understand that life can get busy, the consistency of these cancellations has left me feeling confused and a bit hurt. Our friendship has become an important part of my life, and the sudden change has me questioning whether I might have unintentionally done something to upset her. Our kids have also formed a bond, making the situation even more confusing. Part of me wants to reach out and ask if everything is OK or if there’s something I may have said or done to cause any discomfort. On the other hand, I don’t want to come across as confrontational or add unnecessary strain to what has been a positive connection. How should I approach this situation? — Estranged DEAR ESTRANGED: Stop taking

Single-family home sells in Danville for $1.5 million

31 Saint Joan Court – Google Street View A 2,431-square-foot house built in 1971 has changed hands. The spacious property located in the first block of Saint Joan Court in Danville was sold on Jan. 2, 2024, for $1,525,000, or $627 per square foot. This two-story home offers a capacious living environment with its five bedrooms and three baths. Additionally, the home is equipped with an attached two-car garage, accommodating vehicles and storage needs efficiently. Additional houses have recently been sold nearby: A 1,710-square-foot home on the 300 block of Century Circle in Danville sold in October 2022, for $1,656,000, a price per square foot of $968. The home has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. In August 2023, a 1,979-square-foot home on Greenbrook Drive in Danville sold for $1,630,000, a price per square foot of $824. The home has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. On Greenbrook Drive, Danville, in August 2022, a 1,979-square-foot home was sold for $1,600,000, a price per square foot of $808. The home has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.

NLRB official: Dartmouth basketball players are school employees

By Jimmy Golen and Ralph D. Russo | Associated Press A National Labor Relations Board regional official ruled on Monday that Dartmouth basketball players are employees of the school, clearing the way for an election that would create the first-ever labor union for NCAA athletes. All 15 members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team signed a petition in September asking to join Local 560 of the Service Employees International Union, which already represents some other employees at the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire. Unionizing would allow the players to negotiate not only over salary but working conditions, including practice hours and travel. “Because Dartmouth has the right to control the work performed by the Dartmouth men’s basketball team, and the players perform that work in exchange for compensation, I find that the petitioned-for basketball players are employees within the meaning of the (National Labor Relations) Act,” NLRB Regional Director Laura Sacks wrote. In a statement, Dartmouth basketball player representatives Cade Haskins and Romeo Myrthil called the ruling “a significant step forward for college athletes,” adding, “we are excited to see how this decision

Turkey mourns the dead, surrounded by quake’s rubble

Associated Press ISTANBUL — Millions of people across Turkey on Tuesday will mourn the loss of more than 53,000 friends, loved ones and neighbors in the country’s catastrophic earthquake a year ago. To mark what it calls the “Disaster of the Century,” the government has arranged a series of events to commemorate the one-year anniversary of disaster in southern Turkey. In Antakya, the capital of the southern province of Hatay, a moment of silence and homage will be held besides the ruins of the 13th century Ulu Mosque at 4:17 a.m. – the moment the tremor struck. Hatay, which lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Syrian border, was the worst affected of the 11 southern provinces hit by the 7.8 magnitude quake. Including the 6,000 people killed in neighboring Syria, the quake left more than 59,000 dead. In Antakya people will throw flowers in the Orontes river that flows through the city and hear a local orchestra play “In the Wake of Those Who Have Left,” a composition created to remember the victims. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be in Kahramanmaras, the earthquake’s epicenter

Judge tosses special circumstances in Antioch gang murder case impugned by police racism

MARTINEZ — After months of anticipation, a Contra Costa judge has decided on a landmark issue involving police racism and a new California law, dismissing special-circumstances enhancements against four people accused of murder in Antioch. In an order issued Monday, Judge David Goldstein dismissed all special-circumstances enhancements against co-defendants Eric Windom, Terryon Pugh, Keyshawn McGee, and Trent Allen, taking away life without the possibility of parole as a potential outcome. Goldstein did not explain his decision in writing, but is expected to speak about it at a court hearing on Friday. Goldstein’s decision marks the third time in California history that Contra Costa County has been the subject of a landmark decision over a law enforcement violation of the Racial Justice Act. Goldstein has previously dismissed gang charges in this same case after finding prosecutors’ gang filing practices were racist, and another judge threw out murder convictions against two people in a separate case after finding the prosecutor used “racially coded language” during the trial. Goldstein’s decision closes an issue that has been litigated for months, as four defense attorneys and the Contra Costa District

Fact Check: Yes, Trump did endorse Sen. James Lankford

By Daniel Dale and Kate Sullivan | CNN Former President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Monday that he didn’t endorse Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the primary Republican negotiator of a bipartisan immigration bill that Trump has sharply criticized. In an interview on Monday, right-wing radio host Dan Bongino noted to Trump that some online commentators have pointed out that Trump endorsed Lankford. Bongino defended Trump, saying that people sometimes “let you down” after you endorse them. But Trump went further – claiming that he never endorsed Lankford at all. “Just to correct the record, I did not endorse Sen. Lankford. I didn’t do it. He ran, and I did not endorse him,” Trump said. “So I’m sure your person will be happy to hear that.” More than 10 minutes later, Trump added, “I like James. I did not endorse James, but I like James.” Facts First: Trump’s claim is false. He gave Lankford his “Complete and Total Endorsement” in September 2022 , during the general election in the November 2022 midterms – and in his statement endorsing Lankford, he specifically said that Lankford is

Livermore sex offender charged with hopping school fence to expose himself to kids

LIVERMORE — A 39-year-old registered sex offender has been charged with illegally entering Granada High school and exposing himself to a girl while whistling and waving her over, court records show. George Tomlin, of Livermore, was charged with one felony count of contacting a minor for illicit purposes and three misdemeanor counts related to allegedly entering high school grounds and masturbating in front of a 14-year-old girl, court records show. He is scheduled to enter a plea on Feb. 13, records show. Tomlin has a 2004 conviction of sexual penetration by a foreign object that makes him a registered sex offender, according to the criminal complaint. He is being held in lieu of $215,000 bail at Santa Rita Jail. According to Livermore police, Tomlin hopped a fence at Granada High School and began masturbating at the bleachers of the football field. A 14-year-old girl who noticed what he was doing said he began to whistle at her and wave her over, authorities said. Surveillance video showed Tomlin holding a cellphone, pointed at students who were exercising on school grounds, as he masturbating, police said. He

Half Moon Bay plane crash: Coroner confirms pilot’s body was recovered

HALF MOON BAY — The body of a pilot from a plane crash last month that killed two young Bay Area couples has been recovered and formally identified, according to the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office. The body of Lochie Ferrier, 27, an Oakland resident who hailed from Australia and relocated from New England in the past year, was spotted floating near Ross’ Cove in Moss Beach the morning of Jan. 28, the coroner’s office said. Coroner officials announced Monday that the remains had been formally identified as Ferrier through DNA comparison. Ferrier was found four days after the body of his fiancée, 26-year-old Cassidy Rae Petit, was found near the same location on Jan. 24. The couple lived in Oakland after moving from Burlington, Vermont; tragically, their wedding in Hawaii was set for the same day that Ferrier’s body was recovered. The day instead hosted scheduled memorials for the two in the Burlington area. The morning after the crash, the body of 27-year-old San Francisco resident Emma Willmer-Shiles was recovered in the waters after being spotted by a commercial fishing crew. The remains of