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This Hour: Latest Northern California news, sports, business and entertainment

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California seeks final ruling on teacher tenure

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California officials are asking a Los Angeles judge to finalize and justify his decision striking down tenure and other job protections for teachers, a precursor to a possible appeal.

Attorney General Kamala Harris filed papers on Monday seeking a formal ruling in the closely watched case from Judge Rolf Treu. In a tentative opinion issued six weeks ago, Treu found that a handful of laws governing the hiring and firing of the state's teachers deprive children of a quality education.

Gov. Jerry Brown declined to say Wednesday if he would appeal, but said this week's filing was designed to get clarification on the judge's legal reasoning.

Lawyers for the nine students who sued to overturn the law also have asked Treu to issue a final ruling in the case, known as Vergara v. California.


Lawsuit tests racial policy at California prisons

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge will consider whether California's policy of locking up prisoners by race violates their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley of Sacramento granted class-action status Wednesday to a lawsuit challenging the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's policy of locking all inmates of a particular race in their cells after a fight involving any member of that racial group.

The suit was originally filed in 2008 by inmate Robert Mitchell after he and all other black inmates at High Desert State Prison in Susanville were locked in their cells following a fight.

Attorneys say no other state has a similar policy.

The legal challenge will now apply to all roughly 125,000 male inmates within the state prison system.

The department says it is reviewing the ruling.


Poll: Brown leads by 19 points in re-election bid

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A new poll shows Gov. Jerry Brown with a 19-point lead over Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in his bid for a fourth term.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday comes a month after the candidates advanced from the primary.

The survey shows Brown with support from 52 percent of likely voters and Kashkari with 33 percent. The remaining 15 percent are undecided or do not plan to vote.

Kashkari is a banker and former U.S. Treasury official who helped oversee the federal bank bailout during the recession. He faces tough odds against an incumbent who has raised at least $21 million.

The poll surveyed 984 likely voters from July 8-15 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.


Poll finds Californians back smaller water bond

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A new poll finds a slim majority of likely California voters support a water bond slated for the November ballot.

However, the Public Policy Institute of California survey released Wednesday shows support would grow if lawmakers shrink the $11.1 billion funding package. Lawmakers are negotiating changes because they fear the existing bond won't win voter approval.

The survey found 51 percent of likely voters back the existing measure and 26 percent are opposed. Support grows to 59 percent for a smaller bond, though likely voters were not asked what price tag they would accept.

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he prefers a $6 billion bond.

The poll surveyed 984 likely voters from July 8-15 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.


Inmate escapes from Madera County jail

MADERA, Calif. (AP) - Authorities are looking for an inmate who escaped from a Central California jail after taking out the trash.

Madera County sheriff's officials believe 47-year-old Bryan Parry King jumped the fence Wednesday while taking out the trash as part of his assigned task at the county jail's kitchen.

King was being held on narcotics and weapons charges.

The jail is run by the Madera County Department of Corrections.


Clinton launches baby-talking campaign in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Hillary Clinton is in the San Francisco Bay Area to launch a new campaign - to encourage parents to talk, read and sing to their babies.

The former secretary of state joined community leaders in Oakland on Wednesday to kick start the "Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing" campaign, which is co-sponsored by the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The initiative is spurred by research that shows talking, reading and singing to infants boosts their brain development, vocabulary and school readiness.

The former first lady and U.S. senator spoke with the media about the baby-talking initiative but did not answer questions or discuss a potential presidential campaign in 2016.

This week Clinton also visited the Bay Area campuses of tech companies Facebook, Google and Twitter.


2 sentenced in slaying of 3-year-old in Oakland

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Two men will spend the rest of their lives behind bars for their roles in a drive-by shooting that killed a 3-year-old boy in Oakland.

An Alameda County judge on Wednesday sentenced 29-year-old Lawrence Denard to 137 years to life in prison and 25-year-old Willie Torrence to 121 years to life for the fatal shooting of Carlos Nava.

Jurors found Denard and Torrence guilty of murder last month. The men were also convicted of attempted murder.

Nava's death in 2011 sparked widespread outrage. The child was in a stroller outside an east Oakland strip mall when he was struck in the neck by a stray bullet intended for two men nearby.

Authorities say Denard fired the shots that killed the boy and Torrence was driving the car.


Judge halts drilling permits next to condors

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A California court has delivered a setback to an oil company seeking to drill wells within a few miles of condor habitat at the state's Pinnacles National Park.

A Monterey County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that authorities in central California should have weighed the long-term environmental impact before they authorized an oil company to drill 15 oil wells next to the park.

The Center for Biological Diversity environmental group brought the case against San Benito County officials, and announced the ruling Wednesday.

Pinnacles is one of the country's newest national parks. It's been a base for efforts to restore endangered California condors since 2003. Environmentalists argued the oil wells could harm the roughly two dozen condors that make a home at Pinnacles


Bay Area postal inspector indicted in theft case

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A federal grand jury has returned a three-count indictment charging a San Jose postal inspector with stealing and destroying mail.

The indictment announced on Wednesday alleges that Quan Phan Howard unlawfully opened packages at a San Jose mail distribution center and took a variety items. They included a silver bar, jewelry, coins, gift cards, a gun silencer, a Rolex watch and other items.

Howard is also charged with possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute.

He was arrested last month following an investigation where hidden cameras caught him rummaging through mail and taking the alleged items.

Howard faces up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for each count if convicted.

He's scheduled to be arraigned August 1. A call to his defense attorney was not immediately returned.


Mom accused of leaving kids in car to visit casino

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) - A mother accused of leaving her young children in a car while she gambled at a Livermore casino is facing child endangerment charges.

Officer Traci Rebiejo said 37-year-old Phaley Nget of Oakland was arrested Sunday after someone saw the children, ages 2 and 3, alone in the car parked near Casino 580. Officers found the children strapped into their car seats and determined that Nget had left them inside the car while she visited the casino.

The Contra Costa Times reports the children were spotted around 6 p.m., when the temperature was about 75 degrees. Police said leaving children inside cars can have deadly consequences, even on a cool day, because cars heat up quickly.

Nget is being held on $200,000 bail. The children were taken into protective custody.


Foul odor forces evacuation of coroner's office

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The foul odor of a badly decomposed corpse forced the evacuation of the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau in Oakland.

The Oakland Tribune reports 15 employees complained of eye and throat irritation after someone opened a body bag containing the corpse on Wednesday. One person was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.

Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said the corpse belonged to a man in his 70s and was found on July 16 in his Berkeley garage in an advanced state of decomposition.

Oakland Fire Department officials say that when a deputy coroner picked up the body from a mortuary, it had been covered in a deodorizer known as Smelleze.

A Hazmat team took a sample of the powder and determined that it did not pose a health hazard.

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