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Eric Westervelt

It's a sun-filled, fall day and Nicholas is strapped to an ambulance gurney near 8th and Market streets in downtown San Francisco, dazed and barely conscious. Plastic IV tubes snake around his left hand where L-O-V-E is tattooed just below his knuckles.

"Nicholas, try to wake up a little bit for me, come on," paramedic Paula Fartash coaxes, as she unsuccessfully tries to rouse him from his drug-induced stupor.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A Northern California family found mysteriously dead in August on a hiking trail in the Sierra most likely died from a combination of hyperthermia and dehydration, the local Sheriff who led the investigation said Thursday.

The news sheds light on a case that has confounded investigators and the public and raised new questions about outdoor recreational activities in an era of rising temperatures and climate fueled extreme weather.

The uniquely American epidemic of mass killings by firearms grabs most of the attention from the media, politicians and the public. And the big increase in homicides in 2020 and overall violent crime — on the rise across many American cities — also get their share of coverage.

The historic calls for police accountability, reform and attempts at racial reckoning have left police departments nationwide struggling to keep the officers they have and attract new ones to the force.

The crisis comes as many cities continue to grapple with the fallout from the pandemic and sharp increases in shootings and murders.

It might be tempting to shrug at the scorching weather across large swaths of the West. This just in: It gets hot in the summer.

But this record-setting heat wave's remarkable power, size and unusually early appearance is giving meteorologists and climate experts yet more cause for concern about the routinization of extreme weather in an era of climate change.

These sprawling, persistent high-pressure zones popularly called "heat domes" are relatively common in later summer months. This current system is different.

Last fall Oregon voters decriminalized possession of small amounts of almost all hard drugs, taking a groundbreaking step away from the arrest, charge and jail model for possession that's been a centerpiece of American drug policy since President Richard Nixon declared his War on Drugs 50 years ago this week.

After one of the most destructive and extreme wildfire seasons in modern history last year, a widening drought across California and much of the West has many residents bracing for the possibility this season could be worse.

Alameda Police "mishandled" the arrest of 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez last week and caused his death, according to the attorney representing the man's family.

Gonzalez died April 19 after police pinned him to the ground for at least five minutes. The Alameda Police Department said Gonzalez suffered a "medical emergency" after a scuffle with officers.

Julia Sherwin, the attorney representing Gonzalez's family, said Gonzalez's actions that day didn't warrant law enforcement response from the start.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

An unusually aggressive coyote roaming an eastern suburb of the San Francisco Bay has hikers and residents on edge after biting five people and sparking an urgent effort by police and wildlife officials to capture the elusive predator.

DNA taken from the victims' bite wounds and clothing has linked all five attacks since last summer to a single coyote in a roughly two-mile radius in and around the East Bay cities of Moraga and Lafayette. The predator has bitten adults and kids, including children ages 2 and 3.

Business and civil rights groups in California are demanding action after a recent surge of xenophobic violence against Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area left one person dead and others badly injured.

The brazen, mostly daylight assaults have rattled nerves in communities ahead of Friday's Lunar New Year holiday.

Nearly 30 sworn police officers from a dozen departments attended the pro-Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol last week, and several stormed the building with rioters and are facing federal criminal charges as well as possible expulsion or other discipline.

The officers are from departments large and small. There was veteran officer in Houston, the nation's eighth-largest department; a sergeant in the small town of Rocky Mount, Va., and a group of Philadelphia transit officers.

Members of the insurrectionist mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol last week face what the federal prosecutor in charge calls a "mind-blowing" range of potential charges, from destruction of federal property, trespass and mail theft to possession of destructive devices and felony murder.

The United States Capitol Police have identified the woman who was shot and killed by one of their officers during the pro-Trump rioting on Wednesday as Ashli E. Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from the San Diego area.

She was among the rioters who stormed the Capitol building.

Babbitt, 35, was one of four people who died during Wednesday's chaotic events, according to Washington's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD Police Chief Robert Contee said the three others who died experienced unspecified "medical emergencies."

After this year's historic wildfires, California's oldest state park — Big Basin Redwoods — looks more like a logging village than an iconic hiking and camping mecca.

There's a near constant buzz of chainsaws. Rumblings from trucks and logging skidders fill the air as crews busily cut charred, fallen trees and chop down "hazard trees" rangers worry will topple on to the park's roadways.

Prisoner's rights advocates are pleading for more action to help stop the deadly toll taken by the pandemic that has ravaged America's jails and prisons.

Their calls come as the country grapples with increases in cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus, forcing states and cities to impose tougher restrictions on public gatherings.

The advocates want faster, early release of older and medically vulnerable inmates, those nearing their parole date, as well as non-violent prisoners with a track record of good behavior.

In what will be among the largest and boldest urban police reform experiment in decades San Francisco is creating and preparing to deploy teams of professionals from the fire and health departments — not police — to respond to most calls for people in a psychiatric, behavioral or substance abuse crisis.

Instead of police, these types of crisis calls will mostly be handled by new unarmed mobile teams comprised of paramedics, mental health professionals and peer support counselors starting next month.

Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement's role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.

Updated at 2:06 p.m. ET

An explosion of coronavirus infections at California's San Quentin State Prison, the state's oldest, has public health officials there worried about its impact on prisoners, staff and the wider hospital system in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Shocking, heartbreaking are certainly the words I would use to describe it," said David Sears, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He recently toured San Quentin and warned officials about just such an outbreak.

The growing calls for systemic reform of American policing follow years of rising anger at the ongoing deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement, including the recent killing of George Floyd.

The nationwide demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd's killing have been met at times with heavy-handed police tactics that include beatings, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets fired into crowds.

California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

Images of some American farmers dumping milk, plowing under crops and tossing perishables amid sagging demand and falling prices during the deadly coronavirus pandemic has made for dramatic TV.

But it's not the whole story.

As public health experts plead for cities and states to dramatically increase the scale and speed of testing and contact tracing for the coronavirus, researchers in San Francisco, backed by dozens of volunteers, have launched an ambitious effort to test everyone older than 4 years old in a big part of one hard-hit neighborhood.

Just a month after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to order residents to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the city has launched an ambitious new effort to try to warn residents who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The city's goal: Get them all tested and convince them to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

California is releasing thousands of inmates early due to the pandemic without adequate transportation, support services or housing once they get out, statewide prison advocates and reentry service providers say.

"Absolutely do not stop folks from coming home, but we need realistic resources," says London Croudy, with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a nonprofit that advocates for inmates' rights and the formerly incarcerated. "We want to be there for these folks, but we need help!"

The Trump administration Wednesday said it will crack down on exports of critical medical supplies, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks and gloves needed to fight the coronavirus.

Customs and Border Protection, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will now detain exports of these scarce medical supplies at U.S. ports. CBP said the agencies will determine "whether to return the PPE (personal protection equipment) for use within the United States; to purchase the PPE on behalf of the United States; or, allow it to be exported."

Editor's note: This story contains language that some may find offensive.

President Trump says the federal government's procurement and distribution of vital medical supplies to fight COVID-19 is "a fine-tuned machine," but many hospitals and state governors say they're still struggling to get what they need.

Across much of the nation, health care workers report ongoing, dire shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) including hospital gowns, face shields and especially respiratory N95 face masks.

President Trump says key help is on the way from the strategic reserve and from private industry ramping up production, including big shipments from 3M.

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