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Diablo's Week in Review: February 14-21

Oakland A's new stadium plans for Fremont apparently not happening, former East Bay couple blamed for helping to cause the recession, and cops worry about a sex predator stalking Cal co-eds, and the rise of rural Livermore pot cartels.

This proposed plan for the Oakland A's Cisco Park in Fremont is apparently not happening, according to different news accounts.

Oakland A's

A's Fremont stadium plans not happening? Depending on which news account you read, notably todays's San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland A's officials have bowed out of their plans to build a new ball park in Fremont. An A's spokesman says the team has decided to "no longer pursue the Fremont project." On Friday, the A's asked Fremont to halt an environmental review and cancel a city council meeting related to their plans to build a $1.8 billion ballpark "village," which would have included a 32,000-seat stadium and residential and retail complex. Team officials said they wanted to regroup in the face of growing opposition from some Fremont residents and environmentalists.

Former Lamorinda couple on top 25 list for causing recession: Time magazine listed Herb and Marion Sandler as individuals to blame for America's economic crisis. The Sandlers’ Oakland-based World Saving Bank became the first in the 1980s to sell tricky adjustable-rate-mortgage (ARM) home loans. The couple, who reportedly now live in San Francisco, pocketed $2.3 billion in 2006 when they sold World Savings (and its mounting loan losses) to Wachovia, which imploded this fall and was sold to Wells Fargo. 60 Minutes also probed World Savings’ loan practices in a segment that aired this past Sunday.

Bay Area home prices fall 50 percent, sales rise: While the Bay Area median home price dipped to $300,000 in January--almost half of what it was a year ago--home sales rose for a fifth month in a row. Fifty-four percent of resale transactions involved foreclosure sales, many taking place in East Contra Costa county and other inland areas.

Dublin soldier killed in Iraq: A 41-year-old Army heavy equipment operator, on his third tour of duty of Iraq, was killed Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Southern Iraq. Staff Sgt. Sean Diamond, who was due to return home next month, left behind a wife and four children, ages five to 13.

Danville teen dies in snowboarding accident: Services will be held today for a 19-year-old Pleasanton native who died Monday at Dodge Ridge ski resort.  Aline Christina Martins, who attended Amador Valley High and whose parents now live in Danville, became separated from her brother while snowboarding and fell into a tree well. An autopsy showed that she died of hypothermia.

Nukes proposed to blow up Earth-seeking asteroids: David Dearborn, a Lawrence Liveremore National Laboratory physicist, proposes sending up spacecraft bearing nuclear weapons to destroy asteroids deemed a threat by NASA. In the 1990s, scientists began studying potential dangers posed by asteroids that circle the sun, Dearborn explained at a regular lab-hosted talk last Saturday. About 4,500 of those in this asteroid belt are likely to cross Earth's path at some point.

Nearly 100 Acalanes teachers to receive layoff notices: To prepare for a worst-case budget scenario, the Acalanes Union HIgh School District is sending layoff notices to 92 full-time teachers. With the new state budget being approved, the district, home to four top-ranked public schools in Walnut Creek and Lamornida, may not need to eliminate all those positions but is required by law to give notice. 

Chow parking pushes businesses out of Danville center: Long-time clothier Honey Bee Fashions is going out of business, and Rakestraw Books and the Beauty Source are moving to new locations. The reason? They can no longer afford steep increases in the common use fee charged by landlords at the Iron Horse Plaza. To become home to the popular Chow restaurant, the plaza had to pay to add new parking spaces. 

Dirty tricks--or just kids' prank--in Alamo cityhood vote? The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department is investigating the thefts of at least 50 campaign signs pertaining to the March 3 vote on Alamo cityhood. So far, two Alamo teenagers have admitted to stealing about 20 signs as a high school prank, but detectives are probing to find out if thefts of other signs are politically motivated.

Sexual predator stalking young women near UC Berkeley: Police are looking for a man who since October has lifted the skirts of nine college-age women and tried to molest them. The twp most recent incidents occurred last Saturday night, with a man approaching the women from behind. Police have issued warnings to fraternities and sororities because the attacks have happened between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when Greek parties typically let out.

Rural Livermore residents on the watch for “pot cartels”: People living in the remote hills around Livermore have begun working with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to watch out for people farming marijuana on neighboring land.  Deputies say drug cartels, some guarding their crops with high-powered weapons, have set up farms on the thousands of acres around Livermore, in a few cases unbeknownst to the land owners themselves.

George Mark Children's House struggles to stay open: Tough economic times have forced major donors of this home-like pediatric hospice in San Leandro, the only facility of its kind in the United States, to cut back on contributions. If significant funding doesn't come soon, George Mark may have to close its doors in two months. George Mark has a unique mission: to provide medical and emotional support to children who are dying or who have life-threatening illnesses and to offer a welcoming place for their families to stay with their children. George Mark's programs also rely on dedicated volunteers, including music therapist Ellen Kalm, featured in December's Diablo for receiving one of our annual Threads of Hope Awards for her outstanding service to the community. 

Good news from Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano: Despite entering this challenging holiday fund-raising season with "trepidation," staff at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano report that the community pitched in like "never before," breaking prior records for food and cash donations. The bank, which serves the hungry of both counties, earned $115,000  during its annual Holiday Food Fight.

A sad farewell to a member of our East Bay journalism community: Bill Brand, a longtime reporter for the Oakland Tribune, died early Friday as a result of injuries he suffered when hit by a San Francisco Muni train February 8. After retiring from the Tribune after 27 years, Brand, 70, penned a popular blog and a Mercury News column on beer.  He also was the father of Diablo's star web intern, Amanda Berkson-Brand, a student at Mills College. Our condolescences to Amanda and her family.