Latest California news, sports, business and entertainment


Critics unite against Brown's bullet train funding

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to redirect $250 million from California's landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and spend it instead on high-speed rail has renewed debate about the future of the contentious project.

The governor says the $68 billion bullet train is the perfect way to unite a fractured state and help California "pull together to form a greater community."

His proposal appears to be uniting many lawmakers and interest groups, but not the way he intended.

Some Democrats who have supported high-speed rail are joining Republicans in rejecting Brown's funding idea, and environmental groups are lukewarm at best.

They say the money should be used to improve California's air quality today and not go to a project that is decades away from completion, if it is ever built.


San Jose officials say arson may be cause of fires

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — San Jose fire officials are looking into whether an arsonist is behind a string of suspicious fires across the city.

Capt. Mike Van Elgort says three small fires broke out near downtown early Friday morning as a fourth fire was set but failed to ignite. Those fires were located about a mile from a massive 5-alarm blaze at a large vacant warehouse near U.S. Highway 101 on Thursday.

So far, crews have responded to at least seven blazes within a five-mile radius in the city since Wednesday. Most of the fires have been set outside and close to a home or structure.

Van Elgort says arson investigators are scouring the area collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and working with police to determine whether the fires may been intentionally set.


Trial starts for deputy charged with child sex

(Information in the following story is from: The Sun,

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — Trial has begun for a former San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy accused of having a sexual relationship with a teen in the department's youth Explorer program.

The San Bernardino Sun reports opening statements began Thursday in the trial of Nathan Gastineau, who is suspected of having sex with a 15-year-old girl he was in charge of training.

He is charged with three counts of lewd acts with a child and three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Deputy District Attorney Bobbie Mann said the girl wanted to be a police officer.

Mann said Gastineau initially denied the relationship, but he eventually admitted to having sex once with the girl when she was 16.

The prosecutor said Gastineau told authorities the girl came on to him.

He has pleaded not guilty.


'Speed Freak Killers' case lands in federal court

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge in California is considering a lawsuit filed by the mother of a girl whose remains were found at the bottom of a well during the investigation of the so-called "Speed Freak Killers" case.

Joan Shelley claims San Joaquin County and Sheriff Steve Moore mishandled the remains by ordering deputies to dig them up with heavy equipment in 2012.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. heard arguments Thursday on who holds property rights to the remains — the sheriff or the girl's mother. JoAnn Hobson was 16 when she vanished in 1985.

Two years ago, death row inmate Wesley Shermantine led investigators to remains of five victims of a 15-year methamphetamine-fueled killing spree. He and friend Loren Herzog were arrested in 1999. Herzog hanged himself in 2012.


Man arrested in Venice chair beating

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police have arrested a man on suspicion of battering a homeless man with a folding beach chair in a videotaped attack.

Police arrested 31-year-old Apolinar Lopez on Sunday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. He was released on bail Monday and there's no word on whether he obtained an attorney.

A neighbor recorded the Dec. 13 attack near the Venice boardwalk. The video showed a man on the ground, trying to ward off blows. He was treated for cuts and a broken arm.

Authorities say gang detectives identified Lopez as the attacker. He was stopped for speeding and arrested on a warrant for assault with a deadly weapon and also on suspicion of driving under the influence.


Air Force drug probe grows to 10 officers

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Air Force investigation into alleged drug use in the ranks has expanded to include 10 officers at six bases in the U.S. and Britain.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth says nine lieutenants and one captain are being investigated for illegal possession of recreational drugs. He said the case began with the investigation of two officers at Edwards Air Force Base in California and expanded based on their contacts with others.

The probe surfaced Thursday as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming to give a planned pep talk to members of the nuclear missile force. Initially, officials revealed that two nuclear launch control officers in Montana were being investigated for drug use.

Recreational drugs can include narcotics such as Ecstasy and synthetic marijuana.


Tesla sending new adapter due to overheating worry

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Tesla Motors says it will give customers new adapters for its electric Model S vehicles to assuage safety concerns over overheating.

The electric auto maker said Friday that problems such as faulty wiring or corrosion can cause an existing adapter to overheat while the vehicle is charging.

Tesla already provided a software update in December to address the issue. The company says it does not believe the new adapter is necessary, but is providing it as another layer of assurance to customers. The improved wall adapter has a thermal fuse to prevent current from flowing to the device if an electrical socket heats up.

Tesla will offer free upgraded adapters to existing and new customers in a few weeks.


Virgin Galactic spaceship makes successful flight

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) — Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has made its third rocket-powered supersonic flight in the Mojave Desert, soaring to a record 71,000 feet.

The company says the reusable space vehicle was carried by airplane to 46,000 feet Friday and then released. The craft used its rocket motor the rest of the way to reach its highest altitude to date.

SpaceShipTwo and its two-member crew then glided to a safe landing in the desert north of Los Angeles.

Virgin Galactic says the 10-minute test flight moves the company closer to its goal of flying paying passengers into space.

No date has been set for the first commercial flight but hundreds of would-be tourists have made down-payments for the chance to fly.


SpaceX wins contract for Japanese telecom launch

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — Space Exploration Technologies says it has been awarded a contract with Japan's SKY Perfect JSAT Corp. to launch a telecommunications satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in 2015.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company known as SpaceX said Friday that the new satellite will replace an existing satellite, providing coverage to Asia, Russia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands.