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New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday.Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum on the Nov. 5, 2024, general election ballot, California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber announced.The challenge means the law, which took effect in January, will be on hold until after voters decide.The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last September, bans new wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of locations including schools, homes, day care and health care centers, parks, jails and businesses open to the public.It was celebrated by environmental justice advocates who had been pushing for the regulation for years to lower air pollution in poor neighborhoods and communities of color.But days after the bill passed, Nielsen Merksamer, a law firm that specializes in ballot measures, filed a referendum to overturn SB 1137 on behalf of Jerome Reedy, a board member of the California Independent Petroleum Association. That association has opposed several state and local measures to regulate oil and gas drilling, including bans and phase outs in Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.

Half Moon Bay farmworkers processing shooting as jobs resume

Half Moon Bay farmworkers processing shooting as jobs resume

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — Barely a week after their colleagues were fatally shot, workers were back picking mushrooms at a farm in northern California. They say they have practical and emotional reasons for such a quick return — they need to earn a living and find strength being with people who have experienced the same trauma.“We all feel like we need each other; we feel like the people at the farm are the ones who really understand you right now,” said one worker at the farm in Half Moon Bay who asked that her name not be used.She and two other workers spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are traumatized and do not want the attention that would come if their names are publicized.The woman recently started working at Concord Farms, one of two farms where seven people were fatally shot on Jan. 23 by a man officials said was a disgruntled worker. The woman recalled how she had nicknamed two of her older Chinese coworkers abuela and abuelo — Spanish for grandmother and grandfather — and developed a kinship with them despite language barriers. The couple, Aixiang Zhang, 74, and Zhishen Liu, 73, were two of the three people killed at Concord Farms along with the farm’s manager, Marciano Martinez Jimenez. The couple lived on the farm, the workers said.The young woman wondered why the two were engaged in such hard labor at their age. Though they struggled to communicate through language, with the woman speaking Spanish and the couple speaking Mandarin, they got to know each other by pointing, signing and laughing and felt like a big family, she said. She credited them with helping her learn the ropes of harvesting mushrooms through gestures and a translation app on her phone.The woman was away from the farm’s greenhouses when the shooting occurred but returned shortly after to find their bodies on the ground.Prosecutors say the suspect in the case, Chunli Zhao, began the shooting rampage at California Terra Garden, located 2 miles (1.5 kilometers) from Concord Farms, after his supervisor there demanded he pay a $100 repair bill for his forklift after he was involved in a crash with a co-worker’s bulldozer.They say Zhao caught up with his supervisor talking to the co-worker who had operated the bulldozer and shot and killed them both. They say he then fatally shot the supervisor’s wife and shot and killed another co-worker and shot and wounded that co-worker’s brother.Those killed were Qizhong Cheng, Yetao Bing, Jingzhi Lu and Jose Romero Perez.Authorities say Zhao then drove to Concord Farms, where he worked until 2015, and began shooting there.Zhao, 66, has been charged with seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder. He is set to be arraigned on Feb. 16. Eric Hove, Zhao’s attorney, did not immediately return an email Friday seeking comment.Half Moon Bay is a small coastal community in San Mateo County, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of San Francisco, made up of rolling hills dotted with farms and beaches that attract troves of weekend visitors. Most of the farmworkers in the area are Latino and the two mushrooms farms are among the few that employ Chinese workers, advocates have said. The workers at Concord Farms said Zhao worked there for about four years until he was fired eight years ago. Aaron Tung, the farm’s owner, did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking comment. The young woman said that the slain Chinese couple would often give her eggs, chickens or vegetables to take home. “Grandma, and also grandpa, were so patient with me; they would teach me,” the young woman said, tears filling her eyes. “They always helped me and were very good to me.”She said that before tragedy struck at the small farm that employs about 15 workers, the work atmosphere was so collegial that it felt like a family. The workers said they like working there because the owner gives them the flexibility to leave during the workday if they have to. “It was a really joyous place,” she said.The workers who spoke to AP said they have been working two or three hours a day since Tuesday harvesting mushrooms, cleaning them, weighing them and packaging them because they need money to pay rent. They said they have received a bit of financial help and offers of psychological support from local farmworker advocacy organizations.Another farmworker who spoke to AP had called out sick the day of the shooting and did not witness it. But he recalled previously working with Zhao and said he remains fearful that he could be released from jail and return to the farm.“I try to forget what happened, but it’s like I’m always carrying this fear in me,” he said.The killings came shortly after San Mateo County was pummeled by heavy rains that put farmworkers out of work for days, exacerbating the hard lives of many who live in crowded conditions and make only enough to pay bills and rent. The third farmworker who spoke to AP said he and his wife have been trying to get therapy to process witnessing the shooting. “Being there is not easy,” he said of the farm. “My wife doesn’t feel well. We have mixed feelings. I don’t know how to explain it, how to process what happened.”The man has worked on farms in Half Moon Bay for the past decade and described the struggle that he and others face doing grueling work with pay that barely covers their living expenses. He said he makes $16 an hour and pays $1,300 for a room for himself, his wife and two children in a four-bedroom home they share with eight other people. “We do the work so others can eat when there are times that we don’t eat and we have to struggle to complete the work,” he said. Last week, San Mateo County Supervisor Ray Mueller visited the housing at California Terra Garden, where some of its workers lived along with their families, and described it as “deplorable” and “heartbreaking.” Muller, who represents Half Moon Bay and other agricultural towns, posted photos on Twitter showing a shipping container and sheds used as homes. David Oates, a spokesperson for California Terra Garden, said Friday the employees there returned to work on Monday and have been given access to grief counseling.“They will have that access as long as need be,” he said, adding that they will also receive payment for last week when the farm was not in operation. The farm owners have agreed to build new permanent homes on a separate area of the farm for its employees and their families and provide them affordable housing during the year it will take to construct them, Oates said. Officials have not said anything about whether the housing at Concord Farms was up to code. Belinda Hernandez, founder and executive director of the farmworker advocacy group ALAS, said she hopes this time officials take the plight of farmworkers seriously and make a change. “We have been talking to a lot of people for a long time about this. It shouldn’t take a tragedy for people to stand up and listen,” she said. ___Associated Press writer Janie Har contributed from San Francisco.

Officers kill man in S. Carolina after he stabs police dog

Officers kill man in S. Carolina after he stabs police dog

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Officers shot and killed a man who stabbed a police dog during a raid on a home in South Carolina, authorities said.Spartanburg County deputies went to the home Thursday night to serve arrest warrants, investigators said.Darius L.J. Holcomb, 39, threatened the officers with a knife and locked himself in a bedroom, Spartanburg County Sheriff Cpl. John Burgess said in a statement.Holcomb did not come out for negotiators even after tear gas was deployed in the room, so officers broke down the door and sent the police dog in, Burgess said. Holcomb began stabbing the dog, and at least one deputy shot him. He died a short time later. The dog is expected to survive, Burgess said.The sheriff’s statement said he did not have any information on the arrest warrants or whether Holcomb was the person wanted.The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting.

Former Arkansas lawmaker sentenced to 46 months in prison

Former Arkansas lawmaker sentenced to 46 months in prison

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A former Arkansas lawmaker who admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and filing a false income tax return was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in federal prison.Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to filing a false tax return and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, was sentenced to 46 months in prison and was ordered to repay more than $350,000 to the Arkansas and federal governments.Hutchinson is the nephew of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson. Hutchinson pleaded guilty to the charges as part of a sprawling corruption probe that included several former lawmakers and lobbyists. He’s awaiting sentencing in a separate case where he admitted to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to help a health nonprofit.As part of a a plea agreement, Hutchinson admitted to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law. He also admitted that he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and didn’t report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes.Hutchinson, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, resigned from the Senate in 2018 when he was first charged with spending campaign funds on personal expenses.

Customs agents discover dolphin skull at Detroit airport

Customs agents discover dolphin skull at Detroit airport

ROMULUS, Mich. — Customs agents say they discovered a dolphin skull in luggage left at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that agents found the skull last week when they conducted a routine x-ray scan of the luggage, which had been inadvertently separated from owners during transit. The scans revealed the skull of a young dolphin in one of the bags. According to the CBP, importing or exporting marine mammals is prohibited. The skull was turned over to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators.

Texas officer escapes after 18-wheeler strikes vehicle on icy highway; empty cruiser hit by 2 additional semis

Texas officer escapes after 18-wheeler strikes vehicle on icy highway; empty cruiser hit by 2 additional semis

A Forth Worth police officer escaped with minor injuries this week after his patrol vehicle was hit by the trailer of a jack-knifed 18-wheeler on an icy highway – and then hit two more time after he got out, police said. The officer and his partner were responding to a crash on Interstate 20 when their vehicle was hit Thursday, according to FOX 4 in Dallas. Only one officer was inside at the time of the first crash, police said. The officer in the vehicle at the time of the crash was able to get out and was walking over to his partner when the cruiser was hit by the second 18-wheeler. ICE STORM LEAVES AT LEAST 6 DEAD IN TEXAS IN SLICK TRAVEL CONDITIONS 
An officer escaped after his patrol vehicle was hit by the trailer of a jack-knifed 
(Fort Worth Police Department)”As the two officers worked together to get across the iced-over highway to a grassy median, a third 18-wheeler slid on the ice and struck the patrol vehicle,” the department said in a release on social media.The second officer injured his ankle as the two struggled on foot on the ice. 1 DEAD IN TEXAS, MORE FLIGHT CANCELLED AS NATIONWIDE ICE STORM RAGES ON
The cruiser was hit by two more 18-wheelers after the officer escaped. 
(Fort Worth Police Department)Photos of the crash posted by police showed the vehicle completely totaled. “Even though both officers sustained injuries, they immediately moved back to the highway and began checking on the people involved in the multiple accidents,” the department said. “STAY SAFE OUT THERE.” CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe officers were hospitalized with minor injuries to their head and ankle and were released the same day, FOX 4 reported. No one else was injured, police told Fox News Digital. 

Texas bartender charged with over-serving man convicted of killing off-duty police officer while driving drunk

Texas bartender charged with over-serving man convicted of killing off-duty police officer while driving drunk

A Texas bartender has been charged with over-serving a man who killed an off-duty police officer and critically injured his family after driving while intoxicated. Cala Richardson, 26, is charged with one count of sale to certain persons, a misdemeanor, in connection with the Nov. 7, 2021 death of Euless police Det. Alex Cervantes, the Lake Worth Police Department said. She was arrested Friday. NEW YORK STATE TROOPER ALLEGEDLY ISSUED DOZENS OF FAKE TRAFFIC TICKETS
Cala Richardson, 26, allegedly over-served Dylan Molina, also 26, before he drove while intoxicated and killed a police officer, authorities said. 
(Lake Worth Police Department)Richardson was tending bar at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop when she served Dylan Molina, 26, despite her license to serve alcohol being expired, police said. Molina left the bar and ran a red light, killing Cervantes and sending his wife and two children to the hospital, when he broadsided their vehicle, police said.Molina’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the crash, authorities said.  
Euless police Det. Alex Cervantes was killed when his vehicle was broadsided by a drunk driver. 
(KDFW)”Like most serious alcohol-related crashes, this case has devastated an entire family.” Lake Worth Police Chief J.T. Manoushagian said. “Today’s arrest fulfills a commitment we made early on – and that was to fully investigate this senseless crime and hold those responsible accountable.”Molina pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison. During an investigation, authorities obtained unspecified evidence that Richardson over-served Molina prior to the crash. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code prohibits the sale of alcohol to a person who is intoxicated.
Dylan Molina, 26, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of Euless police Det. Alex Cervantes.  
(KDFW)CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPRichardson was released from police custody after posting a $1,000 bond. She faces a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.