Friday’s Briefing: Almena and Harris Ordered to Stand Trial in Ghost Ship Deaths; Kamala Harris Calls on Trump to Resign


Derick Almena.
  • Derick Almena.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 15, 2017:

1. A judge ordered Derick Almena, the former master tenant of the Ghost Ship, and Max Harris, the warehouse’s artistic director, to stand trial on 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter, reports Jenna Lyons of the San Francisco Chronicle$. After a two-week preliminary hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner ruled that there is sufficient evidence to prove that Almena and Harris were “legally responsible for the deaths of 36 individuals” who died on Dec. 2, 2016 in the horrific Ghost Ship blaze.

2. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., joined a growing chorus of Congressional members who are calling on President Trump to resign because of the numerous allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against him, Politico reports. At least 16 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Harris, a Berkeley native and former Alameda County prosecutor, also was one of the first in Congress to call on Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign because of sexual battery allegations. Franken plans to leave the Senate in early January.

3. The Bay Area is facing serious fire danger this weekend because of high winds and dry conditions, reports Amy Graff of “Sustained winds of 20 mph to 35 mph and gusts as high as 50 mph are expected Friday night through late Sunday morning in the North Bay Hills, East Bay Hills, Diablo Range, Santa Cruz Mountains, Pinnacles National Park, and Los Padres National Forest.”

4. California regulators have ordered PG&E and other state utilities to increase minimum clearance between trees and power lines in forested areas in order to reduce fire risk, reports George Avalos of the East Bay Times$. The new rules established by the Public Utilities Commission are expected to raise utility rates for all customers.

5. The lack of rainfall so far this winter is raising concerns that California may be headed into another drought, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “This week, the widely watched U.S. Drought Monitor classified 44 percent of the state as ‘abnormally dry,’ and climate experts warn that rain and snow are needed soon to protect large swaths from descending into the next category of ‘moderate drought.’”

6. The University of California received a record number of applications for admission for the 13th straight year, reports Emily DeRuy of the Bay Area News Group$. Overall, 221,000 students applied for admission to at least one UC campus for next fall, a 5.7 increase over last year.

7. Alameda schools Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said he supports an effort to rename Henry Haight Elementary School because the school is named after a 19th century California governor who espoused bigoted hate speech, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. McPhetridge called for the creation of a committee to rename the school after local activist Rasheed Shabazz presented research on Haight’s racism.

8. Alameda County officials have rekindled their proposal to sell their portion of the Coliseum property to the city of Oakland, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. Oakland officials have expressed interest in buying the county’s half of the Coliseum property, but it’s unclear how the cash-strapped city would pay for it.

9. State health officials have issued warning guidelines for cellphone use that are similar to those adopted by the city of Berkeley, reports Tom Lochner of East Bay Times$. Health officials say people should avoid keeping their phones in their pockets and should not sleep close to them at night because cellular radio signals increase the risk of cancer.

10. And actor Dustin Hoffman is the latest entertainment star to be accused of sexual misconduct, with five women alleging he sexually harassed or assaulted them.

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