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Regulators adopt new safety rules for Uber, Lyft
Regulators adopt new safety rules for Uber, Lyft

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California regulators on Thursday adopted new safety rules for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft that will not require their drivers be fingerprinted as part of background checks, rejecting a push by the taxi industry.

The California Public Utilities Commission in a meeting in San Francisco unanimously voted to approve the safety regulations it proposed last month after a year-long review spearheaded by the taxi industry.

Dave Sutton, a spokesman for a group that represents the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, called the decision "a mistake."

"The CPUC has made a mistake that may come back to haunt California riders," Sutton said.

It is generally up to local governments to conduct background checks on taxi drivers and those checks often include fingerprinting them. In California, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco all require taxi drivers to be fingerprinted, Sutton said.

He said that when a taxi driver is fingerprinted, those prints are reviewed by local law enforcement and the FBI.

"Law enforcement and experts agree that fingerprints-based background checks are far superior in terms of protecting passengers," he added.

But the CPUC disagreed, saying fingerprinting doesn't insure more safety to riders.

"Although we recognize the public's familiarity with fingerprinting, we do not see that a demonstratively greater level of safety would be added over and above the current background-check protocols," Commissioner Liane Randolph wrote.

The regulations, first announced Oct. 4, will require the ride-hailing companies to conduct annual screenings of drivers and that they use third-party agencies that are nationally accredited to run background checks.

In an effort to address safety concerns, California lawmakers in 2016 passed a law prohibiting ride-hailing companies from hiring drivers who are registered sex offenders or have been convicted of violent felony crimes.

Commissioners found commercial background checks "satisfy the Commission's public policy and safety objectives, and allow flexibility to meet the background requirements that the Legislature has mandated" and pointed out that people who submit their fingerprints via Livescan, a popular screening software, are not required to use a photo I.D.

Furthermore, it said criminal records are only as accurate and up-to-date as the information provided by local courts and law enforcement agencies.

Uber and Lyft, which had argued fingerprinting drivers would be onerous and discriminatory against minorities, applauded the CPUC's decision.

"The safety and security of our riders and drivers is our top priority and today's CPUC decision recognizes the strength and effectiveness of our current background check process," Chelsea Harrison, Lyft's Senior Policy Communications Manager, said in a statement.

Uber said in a statement it was encouraged by the decision "which promotes both public safety and economic opportunity for California drivers."


Las Vegas shooting victims still searching for their heroes
Las Vegas shooting victims still searching for their heroes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As soon as Chris Gilman knew she would survive the gunshot wound she sustained in the Las Vegas massacre, she wanted to find the two strangers who saved her life — a man and woman whose names she didn't even know.

She found a Facebook page called "Find My LV Hero" and posted a plea.

"Looking for husband and wife who were by the VIP bleachers and helped me get out," wrote Gilman, of Bonney Lake, Washington. "My wife gave the husband her shirt and the wife held it against my side to stop bleeding as they carried me through the VIP area out to the street."

Despite the scant details in Gilman's post, it worked. Three days later, Gilman connected with her rescuers, Alex and Wanda Valiente, off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies who were at the Oct. 1 concert where a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.

The connection is one of about 25 made so far through the Facebook page. Nearly six weeks after the massacre, Ashton Zyer's social media creation continues to generate new searches for heroes who in some cases saved lives and in others simply provided what comfort they could.

Zyer, a Las Vegas singer/songwriter, said she started the page after seeing several people in her large social media network post about trying to find someone.

Meghan Earley posted that she was looking for a security guard and a Las Vegas police officer who helped her escape.

"Because of their bravery I only have a sprained ankle, cuts and bruises, as well as a concussion and some broken teeth," she wrote on Oct. 14. "You both are my heroes forever!!!"

Myrna Lopez is looking for a paramedic who gave the socks off his feet to her friend when he saw her running barefoot.

"We just wanted to find him and thank him," Lopez wrote on Oct. 24. "We saved those socks as a reminder that God was with us that night. He clothed us when we weren't clothed."

Andrea Kelly, a 41-year-old nurse from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, posted last week that she was looking for a wounded young woman she can't get her out of her mind.

As Kelly fled the gunfire with her husband, she came across the woman, who had been shot in the knee. Her foot was swelling, a sign of dangerous internal bleeding.

"I said 'We've got to get her on a stretcher. She's either going to die or she's going to lose her leg,'" Kelly said. "She kept saying, 'Please don't leave me, please don't leave me.' I said, 'I won't leave your side.'"

On the way to the hospital in the bed of a truck, Kelly, the wounded woman and both their husbands hunkered down to avoid more bullets.

"She was bawling and hyperventilating," Kelly said. "I told her 'You're going to be OK. We're going to the hospital."

After the woman was rushed into the emergency room, Kelly never saw her again. Kelly believes her name is Lindsey Chance, and is about 23 years old and from Colorado.

Although Chance's name is not on the list of the dead, Kelley said she needs "to hear her voice."

"I just need to know she's OK," Kelly said.

Lacey Tucker of Henderson, Nevada, is desperate to find the couple who helped her and her cousin and sister-in-law as the three women fled the gunfire.

Tucker had just been grazed by a bullet while shielding her cousin, and the group was hysterical over a friend they lost track of amid the chaos.

That's when the women, all in their mid-20s, ran into a man named John and his wife, both in their early 50s. Tucker said the couple immediately went into "mom-and-dad mode."

At one point, John locked hands with Tucker. A wave of calm came over her.

"It was the first at-peace feeling I had when he grabbed my hand," she said. "It was like I was a little girl and my dad just found me."

John held her hand as the group ran about 10 minutes to safety. John then told his wife to stay with the women while he ran back to the shooting scene to find their missing friend.

John found the missing woman by shouting her name in the last place her friends saw her.

Amid the tears and hugs when all were reunited, John and his wife quietly left. The women never got to say "Thank you."

"I don't think they really know what impact they had on us," Tucker said. "None of us were severely injured, so they probably don't think they helped save lives but they did."

Chris Gilman said she is grateful she found the couple who helped her. Gilman's wife of 17 years, Aliza Correa, also is thankful they found Alex and Wanda Valiente.

"I honestly believe that if it wasn't for Wanda and Alex, I would probably be planning Chris' funeral," Correa said.

Gilman said she and Wanda Valiente now speak almost daily. But early on, Gilman felt a little embarrassed about how much she was contacting Valiente. Her new friend quickly put her at ease.

"She said, 'That's OK, we're family," Gilman said. "We're bonded for life."


Entertainment
AP
New 'Star Wars' trilogy in development

NEW YORK — The Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday that Rian Johnson will craft a new trilogy for the "Star Wars" universe, greatly expanding the director's command over the ever-expanding space saga created by George Lucas.

The announcement, made by Disney chief Bob Iger on a call with investment analysts, constituted the most ambitious new foray into the "Star Wars" galaxy, moving well beyond the original film framework imagined by Lucas. Disney also announced a live-action "Star Wars" series that will debut on its streaming service, which is set to launch in 2019.

The new films will be separate from the Skywalker saga. "Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored," Disney said in a statement.

That Johnson will preside over a new "Star Wars" trilogy altogether confirms his status as the franchise's new chief guardian. It's a considerable amount of trust to be placed in the 43-year-old director of 2012's "Looper," even before audiences see his first "Star Wars" installment — "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which is set for release in December. J.J. Abrams, who kick-started the dormant franchise with "The Force Awakens," is set to return for the untitled Episode IX — the third film in the current trilogy.

"He's a creative force, and watching him craft 'The Last Jedi' from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career," Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy said of Johnson. "Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy."

Johnson will write and direct the first film in the trilogy, working with his producing partner Ram Bergman.

"We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on 'The Last Jedi,'" Johnson and Bergman said in a joint statement. "'Star Wars' is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can't wait to continue with this new series of films."

Iger also revealed that Disney is also planning series for its streaming service based on the 2011 Pixar film "Monsters Inc." and the Disney Channel movie franchise "High School Musical." Iger said he expects the service to be priced "substantially below" Netflix's $10-a-month subscription price.


Highway patrolman alleges harassment over Air Guard service
Highway patrolman alleges harassment over Air Guard service

FRESNO (AP) — A California Highway Patrol officer sued the agency, saying his managers have harassed him and denied him time off for military assignments with the Air National Guard.

Christopher Lutz is an officer in the CHP's Oakhurst office near Yosemite National Park. He sued last week after trying for months to solve the problems with his supervisors, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday.

"I've devoted my entire life to service of people, I've never known anything different. But it was tearing me emotionally apart inside, and I just didn't know what to do," Lutz told the newspaper last week after returning from a three-week relief mission to hurricane-ravaged St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.

Lutz joined the California National Guard in 1996, ending up as a pilot in the Air Guard and deploying to missions around the country and abroad. He also a 12-year veteran of the highway patrol.

Lutz said he was told his absences pose a burden to the CHP's Oakhurst office, which only has 19 patrol officers. He acknowledged that he has spent about 200 days on military duty since 2016 but has little say in when he is required to ship out. He said the highway patrol knew he was in the National Guard when he was hired.

Both the CHP and the guard declined to comment on Lutz's lawsuit. But in court papers, the highway patrol asked for the suit to be dismissed, arguing that California does not have to obey the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, a 1994 federal law aimed at protecting guard members from job discrimination based on their military duty.

CHP attorneys argue that the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides "sovereign immunity" to California from the law and that Lutz cannot sue the state for damages under a U.S. law.

"There is no California law that permits USERRA actions against the CHP," the agency said in court filings.


California billionaire doubles spending on anti-Trump ads
California billionaire doubles spending on anti-Trump ads

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California billionaire Tom Steyer said Thursday he'll double his spending on ads calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment to $20 million, even as some prominent national Democrats question whether such calls are a smart move.

In announcing the new spending, Steyer argued that Tuesday's big election wins in Virginia and New Jersey show Democrats are energized and ready to fight back against Trump.

"The American people have responded beyond our expectation to this message," Steyer said. "The Democratic establishment is out of touch with the voters they need to turn out in the upcoming election."

Steyer's "Need to Impeach" campaign will air two new ads in the coming weeks.

The first ad launched in October features Steyer speaking directly to the camera, calling Trump dangerous and mentally unstable. He urged viewers to ask their representatives in Congress to attempt impeachment — an unlikely scenario given Republicans control Congress.

Trump responded to the ads by calling Steyer "wacky and totally unhinged." Fox decided to stop running the first ad "due to strong negative reaction" by its viewers, co-president Jack Abernethy said.

Steyer says about 1.9 million people have signed the petition calling for Trump's impeachment.

The effort highlights divisions within the Democratic party over how best to deal with Trump.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has called impeachment efforts a distraction and warned they could backfire against Democrats.

The effort is boosting Steyer's profile nationwide as he weighs a possible run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The ads are airing nationally on CNN and MSNBC and on local stations. The "Need to Impeach" campaign has also conducted polling in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in presidential primaries.

Steyer's other political organization, NextGen America, spent $3.3 million in Virginia's gubernatorial race.