Eric Westervelt

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.

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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.

Some of the boldest reform experiments underway in the wake of the national reckoning on police violence and systemic racism following George Floyd's murder are pilot projects in Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere.

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.

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On a frigid late January afternoon, Rochester, N.Y., police responded to a reported domestic disturbance on the city's north side.

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.

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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.

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California's muddled county-based coronavirus vaccine distribution system has stoked confusion, frustration and angst for citizens across America's most populous state.

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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.

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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."

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Hospitals in California are facing a staffing shortage heading into the middle of winter. NPR's Eric Westervelt has been speaking with health care workers there.

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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.

Experts agree the Western U.S. needs to increase intentional burns to head off more catastrophic wildfire seasons. But economic, cultural and institutional barriers are in the way.

Earlier this month California Gov. Gavin Newsom, looking uncharacteristically wan and frustrated, stood in the burnt ruins of an elementary school in Napa County obliterated by yet another catastrophic blaze.

It's a scene the governor acknowledged has become painfully familiar across the Golden State.

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