LA County catalytic converter thefts spiking, thieves moving away from enforcement crackdown
On the morning of May 31, Peter Boada had a hankering for some doughnuts.
He jumped into his 2007 Toyota Prius and started it up, but the normally quiet hybrid sedan sounded like a race car on the NASCAR circuit. Overnight, thieves had sawed off the catalytic converter, leaving no functioning exhaust system.
“The thought occurred to him, ‘if they took mine, they probably took yours, too,’ ” said his girlfriend, Xandy Mancao, 31. Boada, 30, was exactly right. When Mancao rushed out to her car — also a 2007 Prius and also parked in front of their apartment — she was greeted by the same deafening sound as she engaged the ignition switch — a roar echoing through Highland Park where they live, and a sound becoming increasingly more common in other parts of southeast Los Angeles and the west San Gabriel Valley during the past eight months. More
Huge rise in number of great white sharks spotted off California coast
If you fancy hitting the surf off the cost of California, keep your eyes peeled because the number of juvenile great white shark sightings has shot up.
Before 2015, Huntington Beach was never closed due to shark activity - but this year, there have already been three closures.
'I've seen more white sharks this year than I have in the previous 30,' Lt. Claude Panis of the Huntington Beach Fire Department's Marine Safety Division told LA Times.com.
With the increase in great white sightings in the last few years, researchers who have been studying juvenile sharks off neighboring Sunset Beach said the predators have a tendency to leave during the colder months and head toward Mexico. However, scientists at Cal State Long Beach's Shark Lab said some have remained in the area as a result of warmer waters due to El Nino. More
Hollywood embraces California’s grittier edge
The setting for Hollywood’s newest gangland drama – TNT’s series “Animal Kingdom,” about a crime family headed by Ellen Barkin – might seem surprising: Oceanside, in northern San Diego County.
It shouldn’t: Oceanside is exactly what Hollywood looks for in California these days, and not just because a gangsters-by-the-sea story makes it easy to mix TV’s favorite forms of titillation: bikinis and Berettas.
Oceanside is a city of 175,000 on the northernmost edge of greater San Diego at a moment when producers are seeking stories from California’s edges. More
California among 10 states with worst emergency response times
In a health emergency, timing is crucial. Minutes ticking by can literally mean life or death. Recently, HBO's John Oliver critiqued the lackadaisical 911 response in the U.S., stating, "Ubers can find you better than ambulances can. Depending on where you live, [911 dispatchers] may also be underfunded, understaffed and full of outdated technology - which is fine, if you're describing a Radio Shack."
But what happens at the next step, when we arrive at the hospital in an ambulance or on our own? Many people still face a painfully long wait before they are seen by a physician or properly diagnosed. HealthGrove, a health data site that's part of Graphiq, wanted to find out which states have the slowest emergency department response. Using data collected from a Medicare survey of more than 4,000 hospitals, HealthGrove found the 10 states with the slowest emergency response times based their Timeliness Score. More
California lawmakers unplug the state's electric car program
A few months ago, Gabriel Lua purchased a 2013 Chevy Volt to replace his 1987 Honda Civic, which had been giving him exhaust headaches and made him worry about the health of his children, ages 3 and 5.
Even though the old Civic had failed the state's smog test three times and was costing him hundreds of dollars a month in maintenance, Lua said he couldn’t afford to replace it until he learned about a state incentive that helps low-income residents in California’s most polluted communities replace their dirty cars. The state covered more than half the new car’s price tag.
“It saves me gas. It saves me money. I feel safer. And most important, it’s for my kids,” said Lua, a 31-year-old mail carrier for a San Joaquin Valley school district. More
California panels approve raft of gun control bills in wake of Orlando massacre
SACRAMENTO -- Two days after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, two key legislative committees on Tuesday approved a sweeping package of gun control legislation following the year's most fiery hearings.
During the state Assembly Public Safety Committee, Democrats sparred with a National Rifle Association lobbyist who testified against several of the bills, calling him "crazy" and "vicious" for protecting the killers who "terrorize our streets." And when the lobbyist said the legislation wouldn't help save lives, one lawmaker suggested washing his mouth with soap.
"The reason they were murdered was because of your organization," said another lawmaker, Assemblyman Evan Low, an openly gay Silicon Valley Democrat who was speaking about the 49 people slaughtered early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. "It's difficult for me to sit here and look you in the eye and respect you." More
America's vanishing West: California losing most land to development
The natural landscape of the American West is gradually disappearing under a relentless march of new subdivisions, roads, oil and gas production, agricultural operations and other human development, according to a detailed mapping study released Tuesday.
From 2001 to 2011, an area totaling 4,321 square miles -- or 15 times the size of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco combined -- was modified by development in the 11 Western states, the report found, with California losing the most natural land, and Wyoming and Utah changing at the fastest rate.
"We are nibbling away at our wild places at a fairly rapid clip," said Mike Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the 1990s. More
What Will California Do With Too Much Solar?
Solar energy records are falling left and right in California these days, as the state steams ahead toward its ambitious renewable energy goals.
But the success of solar has brought about a hidden downside: on some perfectly sunny days, solar farms are being told to turn off.
That’s because in the spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using much air conditioning and demand for electricity is low, the surge of midday solar power is more than the state can use.
It’s becoming a growing concern for those running the grid at the California Independent System Operator. At their Folsom headquarters, a team continually manages the power supply for most of the state, keeping the lights on for some 30 million people. More
Marin begins cycling speed enforcement campaign on open space trails
County parks officials launched a new bicycle speed enforcement program on open space trails this weekend, stationing two staffers with special radar-type devices in areas that have generated public safety complaints.
Officials hesitated to characterize the move as a crackdown, preferring instead to call it a pilot program that initially will be aimed at educating trail users.
"We want to get data, educate users and hopefully gain a useful tool," said Max Korten, assistant director of county parks. "Through the Road and Trail Management Plan there are a number of proposals to open trail alignments to bikes that have caused safety concerns among some neighbors and preserve visitors about the speed of bikes on the trails," he said. "It's important that as we consider implementing some of these proposals; we have a tool to address this potential issue." More
FBI Investigating Reports Of 17 Men Chanting, Firing Off Shots In Apple Valley
APPLE VALLEY — The FBI on Tuesday continued to investigate an incident in which 17 men were detained for reportedly firing off hundreds of rounds in a remote part of Apple Valley.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies and an FBI agent responded to the scene Sunday morning and detained the men – reportedly all of Middle Eastern descent – who were camping out in the Deep Creek Hot Springs area Sunday morning, authorities said.
A 911 caller reported hearing over 100 shots fired and seeing five to seven men wearing turbans and shooting “assault rifles, handguns, and shotguns,” according to a Sheriff’s Department statement. A county sheriff’s helicopter located the men walking near a creek with backpacks “and other items”, The Los Angeles Times reported. More
Anti-auto campaign falls flat
California politicians want to lure – or force – the state’s 26 million licensed motorists to sharply reduce their driving.
Over the last decade, many legislative bills, numerous executive orders and a paper blizzard of plans and regulations from state agencies have declared war on petroleum-burning cars.
Adopted in the name of reducing climate-changing carbon emissions, strategies include spending billions on mass transit, goading local governments into fostering transit-oriented, high-density housing, raising driving costs, and allowing traffic congestion to worsen. More
Bullet train's first segment, reserved for Southland, could open in Bay Area instead
A valuable perk handed to Southern California from the bullet train project — a 2012 decision to build the first operating segment from Burbank north into the Central Valley — is being reconsidered by state officials.
The state rail authority is studying an alternative to build the first segment in the Bay Area, running trains from San Jose to Bakersfield. If the plan does change, it would be a significant reversal that carries big financial, technical and political impacts, especially in Southern California.
“You can’t ignore Southern California or Los Angeles or Orange County and say we are going to go north, period,” said Richard Katz, a longtime Southern California transportation official and former Assembly majority leader. “It made sense to start in the south, given the population and the serious transportation problems here.” More
The Porter Ranch Gas Leak: Blame Gov. Jerry Brown
News came earlier this week that the horrific gas leak spewing methane at a natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch, just outside Los Angeles, will be capped and contained by the end of February. Of course, it’s a promise that has come far too late. If you think Donald Trump is a national disgrace, you haven’t been paying much attention to what’s been happening here in California. Not that you can be blamed for not knowing how bad the atmosphere-warming leak actually is, nobody that has the power to do anything about it seems to care all that much, certainly not California’s governor-for-life Jerry Brown.
While the leak was first discovered in late October, it took Brown two full months to declare a state of emergency. This, after UC Davis scientist Stephen Conley in early November determined that 100,000 pounds of methane was leaking per hour at the site, or 1,200 tons per day. Of course, this inaction is par for the course for Brown, who has long ignored the perils of oil and gas production in the state, especially when it comes to fracking, which may have played a role in the Porter Ranch rupture. In the short term, scientists estimate the leaking methane is more than 80 times more potent than CO2 when it comes warming of our atmosphere. More
Woman found in refrigerator in Santa Ana had been there more than a year
A woman found dead in a refrigerator in Santa Ana last week had been there for over a year, police said Tuesday.
The couple who placed the body there told police she was a relative they had been caring for, but they didn’t report her death to authorities because of their immigration status, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.
Around 2 p.m. Thursday, a homeowner was cleaning a detached garage in the 1000 block of North Jackson Street so it could be rented out when the refrigerator inside was opened because of a strong odor coming from it, Bertagna said.
A couple had been the last tenants in the garage, but moved out around September. Detectives found them several hours later in Garden Grove, where they now live, Bertagna said.
They said the woman in the refrigerator was Ricarda Reyes-Villalobos and that she was a relative from Mexico under their care, he said. More
New 2016 California laws take effect: What you need to know
LOS ANGELES -- As Southern Californians rang in the new year, they also rang in a new set of laws.
SB 491 will make it illegal to wear earbuds or headsets in both ears while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
Riders on electric skateboards must be 16 years or older, wear helmets and ride on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. Under AB 604, it will also be against the law to ride an electric skateboard while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The state's emergency alert system, typically used as Amber Alerts in child-abduction cases, will be used to broadcast a "Yellow Alert" to find hit-and-run drivers in incidents that result in death or major injuries. AB 8 written by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
AB 10 will raise California's minimum wage to $10 an hour from $9 an hour, well above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Several legislative and ballot initiative proposals will push for a $15 an hour minimum wage as early as 2020. More
What is El Niño bringing us besides rain? Hammerhead sharks, experts say
A possible record-breaking El Niño is attracting dozens of sharks, even hammerheads, off the coast of Southern California, experts say.
The periodic ocean pattern characterized by unusually warm water in the eastern Pacific could cause heavy rain as it heats the atmosphere and changes circulation patterns, according to forecasters. But experts say the weather is drawing dozens of great white sharks and several hammerheads to the coast because their food sources are migrating from more tropical areas, the Huntington Beach Independent reported.
"You've got a whole tropical food chain that's moved into our neighborhood," said Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor at Cal State Long Beach. "That warm water is bringing that food up here, and that food is being followed by its predators. That's how we get that subtropical food web that we normally don't have showing up here." More
All 20 ‘Worst Small Cities in America’ in California
The annual WalletHub’s 2015 “Best & Worst Small Cities in America” found that all 20 of the worst small cities in America to live in are in California.
Each year WalletHub publishes a list of the best small cities in America by measuring cities with population size of between 25,000 and 100,000 residents according to a scoring system of between 0 and 100 rating four factors: “1) Affordability, 2) Economic Health, 3) Education & Health and 4) Quality of Life.”
In addition, WalletHub compiles “22 relevant metrics” on each city. California seldom dominates a rating list for anything. But the not-so-Golden State managed to have the 22 lowest ranked towns of the 1,268 small cities in America. More
Fur Seal Pups Mysteriously Washing Up on California Shores
A Guadalupe fur seal pup, wasted away to nearly fur and bones, washed up on the shore’s of California’s Humboldt County in April. He was spotted and whisked to the Bay Area’s Marine Mammal Center, soon to be named Ian and become the first juvenile of his species to ever wear a satellite tag. But his odds of seeing the ocean again after doctors tried to rehabilitate him, like dozens of other fur seal pups mysteriously turning up on California shores, were grim.
The appearance of these pups, many of whom are already dead by the time they wash to shore, has led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare what is known as a UME—an unusual mortality event. So far in 2015, roughly 80 of them have been found stranded, a rate eight times higher than normal. Especially alarming for marine biologists is that, unlike sea lion pups that are experiencing their own bizarre strandings, the Guadalupe fur seals are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with some 15,000 estimated to exist in the world. More
Witnesses Report Seeing Bright Light Across Southern California Sky
Viewers across California and parts of the West Coast reported seeing a strange, large flash of light across the Pacific Ocean Saturday night as the U.S. Navy was conducting a missile test.
Many viewers called NBC San Diego, NBC Southern California and NBC Bay Area reporting a green and blue colored streak of bright light through the sky, reported as far south as Mexico and as far north as the Bay Area.
Some viewers even reported seeing it in Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.
"It was really slow and then exploded really gray and there was some blue lights it just looked really weird," Sokhom Thoeun, who was walking on a San Diego beach, told NBC7. More
Incredibly Venomous’ Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake Seen in California for 1st Time in 30 Years
At least one yellow-bellied sea snake, which lives its entire life in the ocean, was recently spotted on a beach in the Oxnard area.
The reptile typically lives in warmer tropical waters, and its appearance is probably a harbinger of El Niño, the cyclical weather phenomenon connected to warmer sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, according to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay.
The snake sighting was highlighted the nonprofit environmental advocacy group in a blog post on Friday.
"The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake has some of the most poisonous venom in the world, and is a descendant from Asian cobras and Australian tiger snakes," stated the post by Heal the Bay’s senior coastal policy manager, Dana Murray. More
More California Winemakers Using Less Water to Grow Grapes
The grape vines that grower Frank Leeds tends in Napa Valley stand among the unheralded heroes of California's drought, producing decade after decade of respected Cabernets and other wines without a drop of added water.
In a state where farms and dairies take the biggest gulp of the water supply, Leeds and the owners of his Frog's Leap Winery are among a minority — but a growing minority — of California growers and winemakers who believe that when it comes to wine grapes, the less irrigation, the better.
"This is not struggling, skinny, tiny grapevines, right?" Leeds asked proudly earlier this growing season while leading a tour through the dry-farmed rows of wine grapes. More
The Strangest Place You’ll Ever See Bison — on SoCal’s Catalina Island
“Bison, on an island? Off the coast of Los Angeles? Aren’t they… out of place?” I asked my tour guide with the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Here’s what he told me.
“In 1924, 14 bison were flown onto Catalina Island to be extras in a film called The Vanishing American…”
“Oh, so they come from a lineage of famous bison!”
No, he said, and then continued.
It turns out you won’t actually spot any buffalo in the background of the film because their scenes were ultimately left on the cutting room floor. After shooting wrapped, the bison spread out over the island and instead of rounding them up, island owner William Wrigley, Jr. decided to let them stay. More bison were eventually flown in to increase the gene pool and now, nearly a century later, about 135 bison populate the 22-mile, picture-perfect island off the coast of southern California. So even though they missed their shot at fame, the animals did find themselves a new home. More
Naked woman rescued 3 miles off Newport Beach puzzles officials
Officials are unsure how a woman ended up naked in the water three miles off the Newport Beach coast before being rescued Sunday.
A pair of kayakers found the 28-year-old around 10 a.m. She was calling for help about three miles out from the Newport Harbor jetty, said Sgt. D.J. Haldeman of the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol.
According to Haldeman, the woman — whom authorities didn't identify — was alone without a boat, a flotation device or even a bathing suit.
"She was completely naked," he said. The woman told Harbor Patrol deputies that she had been in the water since the night before.
She said she was swimming at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday near 19th Street when a rip current swept her out, Haldeman said. At some point during the roughly 16 hours, the woman said, she took off her swimsuit "so it wouldn't restrict her in her abilities to swim," Haldeman said. More
'They're in everything': California bug outbreak irks residents as insects invade homes, cars
LONE PINE, Calif. — The gas station's ground was covered with the small winged bugs. Piles of carcasses, inches deep, sat swept to the sides.
On the road, they rained onto car windshields. They flew by the thousands toward even the smallest sources of light, and crept along windows and kitchen tables.
Such has been the skin-crawling reality for the past two months in the high-desert communities at the foot of the Sierra Nevada's eastern slopes, where residents have seen an explosion of the black-and-red seed bug species Melacoryphus lateralis.
"They're in everything. There's no way to get rid of them or eradicate them. They're just here," said Blair Nicodemus, 33, of Lone Pine, while driving with a bug creeping on his windshield. "Sometimes there will be these micro-plumes that'll come through where there will be just thousands of them, and they'll be all over you. ... I'm sure I've eaten at least two dozen, because they get into your food." More
California cities cracking down on summer rentals
LOS ANGELES Millions flock to the Southern California coast each year, often renting a cottage or condo for a respite by the sea.
But the explosive growth of online travel booking sites in recent years has prompted several coastal cities to consider tightening regulations on those who rent out their homes for short stays.
While proponents of the short-term rental industry say the additional income often is vital to property owners’ livelihoods and the local economy, city leaders and neighbors want greater oversight to protect residential neighborhoods, tax revenue and the availability of housing amid a booming industry.
Santa Monica, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach and West Hollywood are among the latest Southern California cities taking up the regulation of short-term rentals. More
Drought-fueled fire we've been dreading burns 62,000 acres and counting
This is the blaze that firefighters have braced for all year, the ferocious Rocky Fire burning near Clear Lake that has destroyed more than two dozen homes and hit with the kind of force long-dreaded because of California's historic drought.
On Monday, it had grown to more than 62,000 acres -- nearly the size of Sacramento at 94 square miles -- and more than doubled the total acreage burned by wildfires throughout the state so far this year.
Throughout California's forests, vegetation is so dry and so dense that flying embers, which in wetter years would fizzle out, are igniting at the mere touch of grass or shrub. As one UC Berkeley scientist who studies the Sierra puts it, the forests "are primed and ready to go."
All they need is a spark. More
California vaccine bill signed into law by Jerry Brown
SACRAMENTO -- Ending months of speculation on whether he would endorse the incendiary legislation, Gov. Jerry Brown this morning signed into law Senate Bill 277, which requires almost all California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated in order to attend public or private school, regardless of their parents' personal or religious beliefs.
California now joins only two other states -- Mississippi and West Virginia -- that permit only medical exemptions as legitimate reasons to sidestep vaccinations.
"The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,'' Brown wrote in his signing message.
"While it's true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.'' More
Drought may hasten demise of California's enigmatic Salton Sea
Created by an accidental Colorado River canal breach in 1905, Salton Sea benefitted the area's rich farming culture, as agriculture in the Imperial Valley long received more water from the river than was proportional. The sea was sustained by (often toxic) farming run-off. The area became a tourist destination in the 1950s and 1960s, yet the situation became increasingly unsustainable.
Colorado River dependent states like Nevada and Arizona demanded more share of resources starting in the 1990s. A Quantification Settlement Agreement was signed among several California water agencies regarding allocation of water from the Colorado River in 2003. According to the 2003 deal, farmers in the state's Imperial Valley agreed to halt working on some 50,000 acres and to send that water to San Diego and Coachella Valley residents. The urban areas paid for water conservation efforts in the Imperial Valley, including lining canals and drip irrigation systems.
Salton Sea was given 32 billion gallons of water per year pursuant to the agreement since the lake had been sustained through agricultural runoff since it was created by the canal breach. More
Dolphin leaps onto boat, injuring California woman
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A dolphin leaped onto a boat in Southern California, crashing into a woman and breaking both her ankles.
Chrissie Frickman was boating with her husband and two children June 21 when a pod of dolphins swam alongside them. One of the animals jumped on the vessel, knocking Frickman over and landing on her legs.
"The dolphin jumped and we thought it was doing a flip and I guess it miscalculated," said her husband, Dirk Frickman. "It came right onto my wife and flopped in the boat and knocked down and grazed my daughter."
"The dolphin was flopping all over," he said. "It cut its nose and its tail. Blood started splattering everywhere." Frickman pulled his wife free and called authorities as he headed toward an Orange County harbor. While he steered, he splashed water on the 350-pound dolphin to keep it alive. More
Pot Legalization Could Bring A Million Jobs to California
An estimated 100,000 people are currently employed in California's marijuana industry, but that number could grow 10-fold within a few years, according to the California Cannabis Industry Association.
There is one big "if," though. That's if California actually gets around to legalizing it next year.
It does seem extremely likely: A well-financed legalization campaign will almost certainly make the ballot next year, and the latest polls have a majority for legalization.
And it will be a presidential election year, spurring the turnout of young people, who tend to be even more supportive of freeing the weed.
If California legalizes it, the industry will be primed for rapid expansion and could generate a million jobs within eight years, said the group's executive director Nate Bradley. More
Guinness record set for most surfers riding wave
Long-time Huntington Beach surfer Gary Sahagen had a prediction about how the world record attempt to get the most people riding one wave would go down.
“It’s either going to be spectacular, or a spectacle,” Sahagen said, before joining 66 other surfers crammed onto a 42-foot board on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier.
Turns out, it was a lot of both. An estimated 5,000 people watched from the sand and Huntington Beach pier Saturday morning as Surf City claimed the Guinness World Record for the most people riding a wave on a single board, shattering the previous record set in Queensland, Australia about a decade ago, when 47 surfers rode a wave for 10 seconds. More
Tiny Red Crabs Blanket California Beaches
Hundreds of thousands of tiny crabs have been washing up on Southern California beaches, marring the sandy coastline with streaks of red, as warm ocean currents carry them farther north and closer to shore than usual, officials said on Wednesday.
The red tuna crabs have been dying in hordes on beaches from San Diego to Orange County, although some have been washed back out to sea alive.
Such strandings take place periodically and are not necessarily a threat to the species, according to Linsey Sala, collection manager for the Pelagic Invertebrates Collection at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, "This is definitely a warm-water indicator," Sala said.
"Whether it's directly related to El Nino or other oceanographic conditions is not certain." More
California love: Water thieves just can’t get enough
LOS ANGELES — Something rare quickly becomes valuable. So it should come as no surprise that the latest target of thieves in a state suffering a historic drought is water.
California thieves are cutting pipes and taking water from fire hydrants, storage tanks, creeks and rivers to get their hands on several hundred gallons of the precious commodity. They drive in the thick of night with a 1,000-gallon tank on the back of a pickup and go after the liquid gold wherever they can find it. Some have hit the same target twice in one night, filling up their tank, unloading it into storage and returning for a second fill-up.
Counties, mostly in the more rural northern parts of California, are reporting a surge in thefts and illegal diversions of water from wells and streams.
The prime suspects are illegal marijuana farmers desperate for water before the fall harvest, which would explain the surge in water thievery over the summer. More
California rent increasing, higher than national average
LOS ANGELES -- A not so surprising statistic released in a new report: Californians are paying more for rent than the average American.
According to the report, released by apartmentlist.com, the median rental price of a one-bedroom apartment in California in March was $1,350 -- 43 percent more than the national average. And that number is rising.
"It's pretty brutal," said Ben Bednarz, who is currently looking for an apartment in the Los Angeles area. The report found the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in California increased by 6.5 percent in the last year.
"I could go to Nebraska and I could just buy a house for $200,000, and a pretty big house probably too, but, you know, then I would have to live in Nebraska," Bednarz said. More
Number of whales trapped in fishing gear on California coast spikes
MOSS LANDING -- A record number of whales are becoming ensnared in fishing gear, including a killer whale that died last week north of Fort Bragg, according to federal data released Tuesday by environmental groups.
Last year, 30 whales were caught in gear, often from crab pots -- double the previous year. And alarmingly, the National Marine Fisheries Service has recorded 25 such incidents already this year, with several Monterey Bay whales becoming wrapped up in ropes and other fishing equipment.
"It's heartbreaking to know so many whales are getting tangled up in fishing gear. They often drown or drag gear around until they're too exhausted to feed. Even more disturbing is that this problem is only getting worse," said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.
But in an unusual move, crab fishermen -- who were made aware of the issue just last week -- are working with environmentalists on collaborative solutions to the problem. More
Suspected marijuana grower fatally shot at wildlife refuge
Investigators are all too familiar with the Sacramento County wildlife refuge where a man suspected of illegally growing marijuana was shot dead early Wednesday.
The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for illegal grow operations, officials said, and one of several in the Sacramento area that keeps law enforcement officers coming back almost every year to confront growers and uproot harmful pot plants and toxic chemicals from protected land.
Farmers who grow illegally on public land are usually armed and dangerous, state Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said. Last time law enforcement raided a grow operation in the rural nature preserve near Hood-Franklin Road, it was 2013. Then they found two men carrying shotguns. Both were arrested. More
Jerry Brown urges fines of up to $10,000 for water waste in California drought
Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday proposed granting new enforcement powers to local agencies in California’s ongoing drought, including penalties of as much as $10,000 for the most egregious violations of conservation orders.
Brown said he will also propose legislation to speed environmental permitting for local water supply projects, though not – significantly – for dams.
Neither proposal had taken bill form yet Tuesday, and specifics were unclear. The Democratic governor announced the measures after meeting with the mayors of 14 cities in Sacramento.
“We’ve done a lot,” Brown told reporters at the Capitol. “We have a long way to go.” More
In Spite Of Severe Drought, California Dumps Billions Of Gallons Of Water To ‘Make The Fish Happy’
California is due to run out of water in about a year and has no backup plan for 38 million residents sitting in the middle of land soon that will soon revert back to a desert, according to prominent NASA scientists.
But in the face of this grave situation, liberal, environmental policy insanity still triumps as billions of gallons of water is being released from what little is left in the dams – and it’s not for the humans.
“We’re now in the fourth year of the worst drought in the history of California,” states Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who is frantically working to end the federal and state policies which prioritizes fish over people ahead of another major water release already scheduled. More
The Big Problem With the Latest Plan to Build EV Chargers in California
One of the biggest obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the lack of on-the-go charging. It’s easy enough to charge at home if you have a garage—not so useful for apartment-dwellers who could benefit the most from EVs—but, unless you have a Tesla and access to the company’s Supercharger network, plugging in on the go is a pain.
That’s why build-out of the EV charging network is so important to the longterm success of the technology. According to PG&E, the utility that provides electricity to 16 million people in northern and central California, that state will need 100,000 public Level 2 chargers in its service territory by 2025, to support the 1.5 million EVs that Governor Jerry Brown wants in the state. More
State Senator Bill Monning goes up against Big Soda
SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Bill Monning doesn't want to ban Big Gulps, but he announced legislation Thursday to make sure they come with a stern warning.
Monning, a Carmel Democrat who for years pushed for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, unveiled a new approach: He wants sodas and other sugary drinks to come with labels rivaling those on cigarettes and alcohol, warning consumers that their drinks are dangerous.
"That is not in dispute. That is science. That is hard evidence," Monning said. "What we seek to do is make that information more present to the consuming public, a consumer 'right to know,' if you will."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading cause of added sugars in the diets among American youth and have been linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular and dental disease. More
CHP officer says stealing nude photos from female arrestees 'game' for cops
MARTINEZ -- The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect's phone told investigators that he and his fellow officers have been trading such images for years, in a practice that stretches from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.
CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez, also confessed to stealing explicit photos from the cellphone of a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect in August and forwarding those images to at least two CHP colleagues. The five-year CHP veteran called it a "game" among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit.
Harrington told investigators he had done the same thing to female arrestees a "half dozen times in the last several years," according to the court records, which included leering text messages between Harrington and his Dublin CHP colleague, Officer Robert Hazelwood. Contra Costa County prosecutors are investigating and say the conduct of the officers -- none of whom has been charged so far -- could compromise any criminal cases in which they are witnesses. CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement that his agency too has "active and open investigations" and cited a similar case several years ago in Los Angeles involving a pair of officers. More
California Issues 76K Drivers Licenses To Undocumented Immigrants
The California Department of Motor Vehicles said it has issued 76,000 driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants since a new state law extending legal driving privileges took effect in January, according to a report by a TV station in the state’s capitol.
California, which has one of the nation’s largest populations of undocumented immigrants at 2.6 million, became the 10th state to allow formerly undocumented immigrants to drive legally. The KCRA-TV report said more than 452,000 undocumented immigrants had applied for a license in January. The numbers reflect ongoing efforts by some federal and state officials to push people who came into the country illegally out of the shadows without the threat of deportation. More
Man Scooped up by Garbage Truck Survives Ride
A man is lucky to be alive after surviving a ride in the rear of a garbage truck that was on its way to the Yolo County Landfill.
According to Yolo County Sheriff’s Lt. Martin Torres, a man looking for his wallet inside a garbage bin in the North Highlands of Sacramento area got stuck in the Atlas trash truck when it made its pick-up Tuesday afternoon.
Torres said in his 27 years of work he hasn’t heard of similar incidents.
“The man said he was stuck in the truck for about an hour, but estimates show it was more like 3 or 3 1/2 hours,” Torres said. “The truck made several other pick-ups before arriving at the landfill, where the driver saw the man crawl out of his trash pile.” More
The Most Important New California Laws of 2015
New year, new rules.
More than 900 new laws are hitting the books in 2015. Here’s our annual list of the most important and/or interesting, as picked by KQED news, science, health, and politics and government editors. For a more detailed look at health laws, check out KQED’s State of Health blog.
Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants (AB60) Californians who do not have proper immigration documentation will be eligible to apply for driver’s licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicles expects 1.4 million immigrants to apply in the first few years, and law enforcement, community groups and others are preparing for the surge. More
Los Angeles poverty rate greater than California, nation
The new five-year estimates from the American Community Survey show a quarter of all children in Los Angeles County live in poverty. Of those residents who were born in another country, 20 percent live in poverty.
"It’s not like this is new," said Christopher Thornberg with Beacon Economics.
"This is an ongoing situation. As to why, well it’s because of the fact that we are home to many low-skill immigrants, many who are undocumented, people who are, if you will, living on the economic margins of society."
The county's poverty rate is greater than the state, which is at 16 percent, and the nation, at 15 percent. L.A. City Councilman Curren Price represents one of the poorest area of the city. He believes there are a variety of factors that contribute to the poverty rate in Los Angeles County. More
Orinda: District says 2nd grader can stay after all
ORINDA -- After a torrent of community outrage over its move to investigate the residency claims of a Latina student and then kick her out of second grade, the school district here has reversed course and will allow the girl to stay, the family learned Friday.
Vivian and her mother, Maria, reside on the second floor of an Orinda house owned by the Storch family, who employ Maria as a live-in nanny.
A Bay Area News Group story on Thursday detailed the district's use of a private investigator to develop a case for disqualifying the girl from attending school, provoking a flood of calls, emails and social media posts in support of the family. On Friday, the Orinda Union School District's attorney told Miriam Storch in an email that Vivian could stay -- as long as Storch and her husband become her official caregivers, which they are willing to do. More
Charles Manson gets marriage license
CORCORAN, Calif. — Mass murderer Charles Manson plans to marry a 26-year-old woman who left her Midwestern home and spent the past nine years trying to help exonerate him. Afton Elaine Burton, the raven-haired bride-to-be, said she loves the man convicted in the notorious murders of seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
No date has been set, but a wedding coordinator has been assigned by the prison to handle the nuptials, and the couple has until early February to get married before they would have to reapply.
The Kings County marriage license was issued Nov. 7 for the 80-year-old Manson and Burton, who lives in Corcoran — the site of the prison — and maintains several websites advocating his innocence. More
Pot's Continued Status as a Schedule I Drug Is Now Up to a Calif. Judge
Although by now Judge Kimberly Mueller of the Eastern District of California has heard all of the expert testimony she will take to make her decision whether cannabis constitutionally belongs in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, she will not make her decision until both sides have had an opportunity to argue the question through exhaustive briefs, a process which could take more than two months.
So far, a firm deadline for written arguments has not been set, but Judge Mueller scheduled a “status hearing” to follow up with the parties’ progress for November 19th at 9 am. If the parties haven’t hit any snags by that time, she will probably set a final deadline for briefings on that date.
What she may rule is anyone’s guess. She did a good job of keeping her poker face up throughout the length of the proceedings, and her rulings on evidentiary motions don’t reveal any clear pattern of bias toward one party or another. More
California on the Brink: 14 Rural Communities are Now Facing Total Water Depletion
Nestled in the mountains of California, is the infamous tourist destination of Bodie. Once a thriving gold mining town, it is now an empty shell of its former self.
As soon as the gold depleted in the early 20th century, the town faced decades of decline that it would never recover from.
By the early 1960?s, the last handful of residents left the town. They leaving behind an eerie scene, filled with crumbling homes and businesses amidst a desolate landscape. However, gold isn’t essential to living. If the Western drought continues on its current course, then we have dozens of ghost towns to look forward to in the near future.
So far the drought in California has been relentless. Where I live in the Bay Area, we’ve had our first rain of the year today, if you could call it that. More like a fine mist. Normally we’ve gotten at least one rainy day by this time of year, but it’s looking like this winter is going to be just as bad as last year. More
Cyber breaches put 18.5 million Californians' data at risk in 2013
Cyber intrusions and other data breaches put the personal records of 18.5 million Californians, nearly half the state's population, at risk in 2013, a seven-fold increase over the year before, the state attorney general reported on Tuesday.
The number of data breaches reported by companies and government entities increased 28 percent, from 131 in 2012 to 167 last year, more than half of them, or 53 percent, caused by cyber incursions such as computer hacking and malware, the report said.
The physical loss or theft of laptops and other devices containing unencrypted personal information accounted for 26 percent of the reported breaches last year, while the rest stemmed from unintentional errors and deliberate misuse. More
Despite California climate law, carbon emissions may be a shell game
California's pioneering climate-change law has a long reach, but that doesn't mean all its mandates will help stave off global warming.
To meet the requirement that it cut carbon emissions, for example, Southern California Edison recently sold its stake in one of the West's largest coal-fired power plants, located hundreds of miles out of state.
But the Four Corners Generating Station in New Mexico still burns coal — only the power that Edison once delivered to California now goes to a different utility's customers in Arizona. Similar swaps are taking place at coal plants throughout the West, and they underscore the limitations California faces as it tries to confront climate change in the absence of a coherent federal plan. More
I Went to California's Post-Apocalyptic Beach Town
The Salton Sea, California's largest lake by volume, exists entirely by accident.
It was created in the early 1900s after a heavy rain caused the Colorado River to burst through the banks of an irrigation canal, sending millions of gallons of water into a previously dried out lake bed in the California desert.
Initially, the new, giant, inland sea was a blessing. In the 50s and 60s, it was a booming tourist attraction. Marketed as a "miracle in the desert," it became Palm Springs but with beaches. It would regularly attract over half a million visitors annually.
Yacht clubs sprang up on the shores, people flocked to fish and waterski, and stars like the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono would visit to drive speedboats and swim.
Property was so in demand that real estate agents would fly people up in light aircraft and sell them property from the air without ever landing to view it.
But it wouldn't last. The sea quickly became something of an ecological nightmare soup. More
School district in California now has a military-grade ARMORED TRUCK just like the ones US soldiers ride to combat in Afghanistan
The second-largest school district in California is raising eyebrows after its police force recently acquired a military-grade armored vehicle.
The San Diego Unified School District now has a 14-ton M-RAP — short for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle — that American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan usually ride into combat to protect them against explosives.
The $700,000 tank was donated to the school district under a military program that distributes surplus military equipment to local police agencies.
The federal initiative has come under heavy criticism after police in Ferguson, Missouri, used military weapons usually reserved for trained US Marines against regular citizens protesting the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 18. More
How Cops and Hackers Could Abuse California’s New Phone Kill-Switch Law
Beginning next year, if you buy a cell phone in California that gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a built-in ability to remotely deactivate the phone under a new “kill switch” feature being mandated by California law—but the feature will make it easier for police and others to disable the phone as well, raising concerns among civil liberties groups about possible abuse.
The law, which takes effect next July, requires all phones sold in California to come pre-equipped with a software “kill switch” that allows owners to essentially render them useless if they’re lost or stolen. Although the law, SB 962, applies only to California, it undoubtedly will affect other states, which often follow the Golden State’s lead. It also seems unlikely phone manufacturers would exclude the feature from phones sold elsewhere. And although the legislation allows users to opt out of the feature after they buy the phone, few likely will do so. More
Gov. Jerry Brown to Mexican Illegals: 'You're All Welcome in California'
According to the Los Angeles Times, while introducing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who said America is "the other Mexico," Brown "spoke about the interwoven histories of Mexico and California." He "nodded to the immigrants in the room, saying it didn't matter if they had permission to be in the United States."
"You're all welcome in California," Brown reportedly said.
Brown has made California a sanctuary state by signing the Trust Act and giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He has also expanded financial aid to illegal immigrants by signing the California DREAM Act. Peña Nieto reportedly "thanked state officials for embracing foreigners, citing measures that extend state benefits to immigrants."
Even during the border crisis, Brown reportedly vowed "to find ways to shorten long waits at the Tijuana-San Diego international border crossing," saying, "If we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man from Mexico to California in 20 minutes." More
Too much sex in sex education book, Fremont parents say
FREMONT -- A health textbook that talks about masturbation, foreplay and erotic touch, among other sexual education topics, will stay even though some parents are objecting to it on the grounds it's inappropriate for their ninth grade children.
The school board voted 3-2 on June 25 to purchase copies of "Your Health Today" for $204,600 after an extensive review process that included input from teachers and parents, said school board President Lara Calvert-York. It was chosen over six other books under consideration and the district has no plans to pull it from classrooms, she said.
But that approval process the book went through hasn't dulled the fury of parents who say the book's information on sex is way too advanced. A petition on the website Care2 has over 1,500 online signatures calling for the book's removal. More
Demand for Groundwater Causing Huge Swaths of Land to Sink
Extensive groundwater pumping is causing a huge swath of central California to sink, in some spots at an alarming rate, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.
With California in the throes of a major drought and demand for groundwater rising, officials and landowners are racing to respond to the process known as subsidence. Some areas of the San Joaquin Valley, the backbone of California's vast agricultural industry, are subsiding at the fastest rates ever measured, said Michelle Sneed, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author of the recent report.
While the bulk of the sinking 1,200-square-mile (3,108-square-kilometer) area in central California is subsiding only about an inch (2.5 centimeters) a year, one 2-square-mile (5-square-kilometer) area Sneed studied is subsiding almost a foot (0.3 meters) annually. At that pace, "lots of infrastructure can't handle such rapid subsidence," Sneed said, including roads, water canals, and pipelines. The drought is likely to exacerbate the situation, as less rain drives more pumping. More
California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn
As California’s severe drought deepens and officials look to reduce water consumption in every possible way, the state appears to be sending mixed signals as to which water-related activity is the most egregious.
The entirety of California is currently experiencing drought conditions and more than 80 percent of the state is classified as an extreme drought. Laura Whitney and her husband, Michael Korte, have been trying to conserve water in their Glendora, California home by cutting back on lawn watering, taking shorter showers, and doing larger loads of laundry. Now, they are facing a fine of up to $500 for not keeping their lawn green.
Survey results from the State Water Resources Control Board found that instead of achieving the 20 percent water reduction sought by Gov. Jerry Brown, water use actually jumped one percent this May, compared to the same period in previous years. As a result, the board voted unanimously this week to impose the first mandatory water restrictions on California residents. The regulations seek to curb water use among urban residents by banning wasteful outdoor watering, such as over-watering lawns, hosing down sidewalks or driveways, and washing cars without a shut-off nozzle on the hose. Violators could face a fine of up to $500. More
The Reason California Will Break Apart in the Years Ahead
A Silicon Valley venture capitalist by the name of Tim Draper, has proposed that perhaps it is time for the various regions of California to part ways.
His goal, is to let California be divided into six different states.
This isn’t exactly a new idea.
There have been proposals to divide the massive state since California achieved statehood.
Of course, none have succeeded. As a matter of fact, there have only been a handful of times in American history, when part of a state has managed to secede to form its own state, and none of them have occurred since the Civil War. More
California's Absurd Intervention Over Dorm Room Sex
With all the other drama in the news, the likely passage of a California law ostensibly targeting sexual assault on college campuses—approved by the state Senate on May 29 and by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 18—has gone largely unnoticed. Yet the bill, SB-967, deserves attention as an alarming example of creeping Big-Sisterism that seeks to legislate "correct" sex. While its reach affects only college students so far, the precedent is a dangerous and potentially far-reaching one.
The bill, sponsored by state Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and developed in collaboration with student activists, does nothing less than attempt to mandate the proper way to engage in sexual intimacy, at least if you're on a college campus. It requires schools that receive any state funds through student aid to use "affirmative consent" as the standard in evaluating sexual assault complaints in the campus disciplinary system. More
California protesters block transport of undocumented immigrants
Anti-immigration protesters impeded the arrival of several buses transporting undocumented immigrants into a US Border Patrol station in Murrieta, California on Tuesday, some 60 miles north of San Diego.
The arrival of the group of Central American families had been decried by Murrieta’s mayor, Alan Long, who alleged that the group of immigrants, adults with their children numbering about 140 people, represented a public safety threat to the community.
Assembled protesters, who numbered 150, converged on a street leading up to an access road into the processing center, preventing the two buses from reaching the facility, reported Reuters. More
Study finds medical pot farms draining streams dry
SAN FRANCISCO -- Some drought-stricken rivers and streams in Northern California's coastal forests are being polluted and sucked dry by water-guzzling medical marijuana farms, wildlife officials say - an issue that has spurred at least one county to try to outlaw personal grows.
State fish and wildlife officials say much of the marijuana being grown in northern counties under the state's medical pot law is not being used for legal, personal use, but for sale both in California and states where pot is still illegal.
This demand is fueling backyard and larger-scale pot farming, especially in remote Lake, Humboldt and Mendocino counties on the densely forested North Coast, officials said. More
Local, federal authorities at odds over holding some immigrant inmates
More than a dozen California counties have stopped honoring requests from immigration agents to hold potentially deportable inmates beyond the length of their jail terms, saying the practice may expose local sheriffs to liability.
In recent weeks, officials in counties including Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino have stopped complying with so-called ICE detainers, citing a federal court ruling in April that found an Oregon county liable for damages after it held an inmate beyond her release date so she could be transferred into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
The California counties are among about 100 municipalities across the country that have stopped the practice since the ruling, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy group that is tracking the issue. More
DMV Lays Out Rules Governing Self-Driving Car Tests
SACRAMENTO – The Department of Motor Vehicles announced Tuesday it has created rules governing how self-driving or autonomous cars are tested by manufacturers on California roads.
These new rules could open the door for more of these types of vehicles finding their way into local neighborhoods.
The rules cover vehicle testing, insurance, registration and reporting, according to a statement issued by the DMV on Tuesday. Under the rules, manufacturers must provide proof the vehicle being tested was successfully tested under controlled conditions.
And anyone who gets behind the wheel of one of one of these vehicles must first complete a training program. Rules state that while the vehicle is moving, the driver must be in the driver’s seat and be able to take over, if needed. The manufacturer must have a $5 million insurance or surety bond. And any incident involving an accident or an incident where the driverless technology disengages has to be immediately reported to the DMV. More
San Francisco Sign Hacked, Warns of "Godzilla Attack"
Someone hacked into an electronic traffic sign on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco Wednesday, posting alerts that said "Godzilla Attack" and "Turn Back."
Ali Wunderman spotted the signs just after 9 p.m. and took pictures. At first she thought it was a PR campaign for the new Godzilla movie.
Paul Indelicato of Pacific Highway Rentals told SFGate that the digital signs were set up in order to warn drivers about street delays for the Bay to Breakers race on Sunday.
"It kind of fits with the theme," he said. "We kind of smiled at each other when we got the phone call this morning.” More
California's medical prison beset by waste and mismanagement
FRENCH CAMP, Calif. —California's $840-million medical prison — the largest in the nation — was built to provide care to more than 1,800 inmates.
When fully operational, it was supposed to help the state's prison system emerge from a decade of federal oversight brought on by the persistent neglect and poor medical treatment of inmates.
But since opening in July, the state-of-the-art California Health Care Facility has been beset by waste, mismanagement and miscommunication between the prison and medical staffs.
Prisoner-rights lawyer Rebecca Evenson, touring the facility in January to check on compliance with disabled access laws, said she was shocked by the extent of the problems. More
Cali state senator arrested for alleged gun-running was gun-control advocate
California state Sen. Leland Yee (D) was arrested Wednesday at his home in San Francisco and accused of — among many, many other things — offering to procure some seriously illegal weapons. The irony: Yee was one of the driving forces behind some of the toughest gun-control legislation in the country during his tenure in the state Senate.
First, a bit on Yee’s record: The former San Francisco School Board president, who received a PhD in child psychology from the University of Hawaii and was the first Chinese American to serve in the California Senate, wrote legislation in 2012 that would have banned the sales of conversion kits that would allow gun owners to create firearms with detachable magazines or bigger clips.
This year, Yee introduced two more gun-control bills. One, S.B. 108, would have required the Justice Department to study local safe storage ordinances that prevent children from getting access to their parents’ weapons.
Another, S.B. 47, would have expanded California’s ban on assault weapons to include semiautomatics, centerfire rifles or pistols with the ability to accept detachable magazines. More
Unvaccinated People Make Up Large Portion Of Measles Cases In California
Some of the measles cases are linked to international travel.
UC Davis infectious disease expert Dr. Dean Blumberg says measles wouldn’t exist in California without that external exposure.
But as more people choose not to get vaccinated, vulnerability increases.
People most likely to get measles are either too young to be vaccinated, or part of a small percentage of people for whom the vaccine is ineffective.
Measles has been identified in eight California counties so far, mostly located on the coast.
Fourteen of the measles cases reported this year are among unvaccinated adults or kids whose parents received a personal belief exemption. More
Don't give up on the bullet train, California
Who doesn't love a train? Who cannot fail to be seduced by the most appealing vehicle in human history — the rail-induced sensuality of "Brief Encounter," the desperate heroism of engineer Casey Jones, the creative muscle of the Big Four railroad barons, the plucky fortitude of Thomas the Tank Engine and the Little Engine That Could, all wrapped up in gleaming, rocking steel, punctuated by a high, lonesome whistle?
And yet California voters have been expressing morning-after regrets since they voted for Proposition 1A, which promised them a bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Backers said a Concorde-like fuselage would rocket us to the Bay Area in 21/2 hours and for the low, low fare of $55. A Disneyland ride for grown-ups! And did we mention that it's carbon-friendly? More
Marianne Williamson Aims to Save Washington's Soul
Marianne Williamson doesn't like most articles about her. She seems to remember every slight, every snarky subhead that called her a shaman, a prophet, an ex–lounge singer.
"The press creates a caricature," she says. Take, for example, the most recent headline from The New York Times: "Marianne Williamson, New-Age Guru, Seeks Congressional Seat."
" 'New Age guru,' " Williamson scoffs. "First of all, what is the suggestion here, that the 'old age' is working?"
Williamson is sitting on a wooden bench beside her press person, Ileana Wachtel, inside a vegan/organic/raw food café in Santa Monica called Rawvolution. "I've never worn a velvet scarf in my life. You label somebody 'New Age,' and that's automatic mockery: 'She cannot possibly be a serious thinker.' " More
California drought: communities at risk of running dry
It is a bleak roadmap of the deepening crisis brought on by one of California's worst droughts - a list of 17 communities and water districts that within 100 days could run dry of the state's most precious commodity.
The threatened towns and districts, identified this week by state health officials, are mostly small and in rural areas. They get their water in a variety of ways, from reservoirs to wells to rivers. But, in all cases, a largely rainless winter has left their supplies near empty.
In the Bay Area, Cloverdale and Healdsburg in Sonoma County are among those at risk of running out of water, according to the state. The small Lompico Water District in the Santa Cruz Mountains is also on the list. Others could be added if the dry weather lingers. More
Tim Draper proposes splitting California into six states
Secessionists in California's rural, northernmost reaches may have found a kindred spirit in the Bay Area.
Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is proposing to split California into six states, according to an initiative filing received by the state Friday.
He'd let the northern counties have their state of Jefferson, while adding North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.
Draper did not immediately return a telephone call for comment Friday, and the website Six Californias offers little information about his idea.
The website TechCrunch quoted Draper as saying a divided state would receive improved representation in the U.S. Senate while allowing each new state to "start fresh" with government. More
California Begins Confiscating Legally-Purchased Guns
It is not surprising that the first police raids to take legally-purchased firearms from citizens are in California.
Until recently, the state had the strictest gun control laws and the liberal run state government has always looked unfavorably on the Second Amendment.
Earlier this year, the state legislature expanded the list of what they call “prohibited persons” – people who have legally registered a firearm but, for various reasons, are no longer allowed their Second Amendment rights.
These reasons were expanded to include people who are behind on state taxes, did not pay toll fees in a “timely” manner and a wide range of other minor misdemeanors or reported mental health concerns. More
California’s new laws: What changes in 2014
Bills that crossed Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk in 2013 encompassed policy topics from bullets to bike safety. In some cases Brown signed legislation that enshrined key Democratic goals, reflecting the strength of robust Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
A few of those bills, including one hiking the state minimum wage and one requiring cars to stay at least 3 feet away from bicyclists, won’t take effect for a few months. But that still leaves plenty of substantial measures that become operative state law today. Here’s a look at some highlights.
SB 4 seeks to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a gas-harvesting practice that involves blasting a mix of pressurized water and chemicals underground. Rules taking effect at the start of 2014 mandate groundwater monitoring, require neighbors to be notified of new wells and have energy companies publicly disclose the fracking chemicals they use.
AB 1266 allows transgender students to use the school facilities and join school teams aligned with their gender. A referendum challenge could stall or ultimately repeal the law; county registrars are in the process of verifying signatures.
SB 606 brought movie stars Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner to Sacramento, where they testified for a measure barring photographers from aggressively seeking shots of kids. More
San Francisco couple pulls off their nude wedding
A few minutes after noon Thursday, Gypsy Taub stepped through the gilded doors of San Francisco City Hall like any other nervous bride in her gown and veil.
Her intent was to be married naked on the steps and a phalanx of uniformed sheriff's deputies stood to her side like groomsmen.
Right away, Taub noticed a hitch in her plan.
The band was late, and that was her greatest expense. She was not going to start without them so she grabbed a bullhorn and turned the gathering into a political rally for the cause of freedom, while straying into topics of wars, stolen elections and reincarnation.
"The other news for today is that death is not real," she announced, to get the attention of the crowd of about 100 before hammering her main message. "This is a protest against the nudity ban as much as it is a wedding. I know that the people of San Francisco are behind me."
The wedding was the culmination of a yearlong assault on the city's ban on public nudity, as led by Taub, a former stripper turned activist. More
It Is Now Illegal To Smoke In Your Own Home In San Rafael, California
In a unanimous decision, members of the San Rafael City Council have approved the strictest type of smoking ordinance in the country. Effective last week, Assembly Bill 746 bans residents of apartments, condos, duplexes, and multi-family houses from smoking cigarettes and “tobacco products” inside their homes.
Introduced by Assembly Member Marc Levine and pushed by the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition for over seven years, the ordinance applies to owners and renters in all buildings that house wall-sharing units for three or more families. The purpose is to prevent second-hand smoke from travelling through doors, windows, floorboards, crawl spaces, or ventilation systems (i.e. any conceivable opening) into neighboring units. More
Floating island of rubbish three times size of BRITAIN floating towards California
A floating island of debris three times the size of BRITAIN is heading for the California coastline sparking huge environmental concerns.
Five millions tons of rubbish made up of devastated homes, boats, cars and businesses is making its way across the Pacific Ocean following the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Scientists have already discovered debris on the west coast but their latest findings suggest California is expected to be hit with a deluge all at once. America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their latest findings showing a huge island of rubbish floating northeast of the Hawaiian Islands.
Boffins have been unable to say for certain when the debris will wash ashore but they have been closely monitoring its movements which stretches from Alaska to the Philippines. Seven months ago, the first documented debris from the tsunami reached Crescent City, California. More
California resident: ‘I was all for Obamacare’ until I got the bill
California residents are rebelling a bit against Obamacare, with thousands shocked by the sticker price and rethinking their support, saying that what seemed wonderful in principle is not translating so well into reality.
As Pam Kehaly, the president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, reported, she received a letter from one woman who saw her insurance rates rise by 50 percent due to Obamacare.
“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,’ ” Ms. Kehaly said, in the Los Angeles Times.
Several hundred thousand other Californians in coming weeks may be feeling the same pinch, as insurers drop their plans and push them onto exchanges, medical analysts say. More
What’s Going on in California? Third Rare Creature Washes Ashore
The third rare creature washed ashore on a California beach on Friday. This time, it was a 13.5 foot long oarfish carcass at Oceanside Harbor.
Sightings of oarfishes are rare because the fish dive more than 3,000 feet deep. Samples are going to be taken to see how the fish died. The oarfish discovery follows a larger, 18-foot long oarfish carcass washing ashore on Santa Catalina Island.
“We’ve never seen a fish this big,” Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, Catalina Island Marine Institute’s sail training ship, told the AP. “The last oarfish we saw was three feet long.”
About 15 people were needed to carry the humongus carcass. More
Appeals court leaves California shark fin ban in place
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to block a California law Tuesday that bans the possession and sale of shark fins that are detached from shark bodies.
Two Asian-American groups claim the law, which went fully into effect on July 1, discriminates against Chinese Americans because it prevents them from engaging in the traditional cultural practice of eating shark fin soup at ceremonial occasions. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision in which U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton of Oakland declined to issue a preliminary injunction suspending the ban.
The appeals court said the two groups "presented no persuasive evidence indicating that the California Legislature's real intent was to discriminate against Chinese Americans rather than to accomplish the law's stated humanitarian, conservationist and health goals." More
E-cigarettes have cities, businesses pondering action
Saturday was supposed to be a big day for Billy DePalma.
He envisioned a ribbon cutting and then a steady stream of new customers perusing colorful, pen-shaped electronic cigarettes behind glass cases. They'd gawk at his impressive selection of liquid nicotine — flavors like Hubba Bubba Grape, Gummy Bear and Orange Cream Soda — as he fielded questions about the fast-growing trend of "vaping," so-called because users inhale the vapor produced when the liquid is heated.
Instead, drywall litters the floor of his dark shop. And all he can do is wait. Days before his shop was to open, Seal Beach passed a 45-day moratorium halting any new e-cigarette and smoke shops from opening in the small beach community.
Seal Beach is one of a growing number of California cities now grappling with what to do about the booming storefront businesses. More
In Battle Over Malibu Beaches, an App Unlocks Access
MALIBU, Calif. — The battle between Malibu beachfront homeowners and a less privileged public that wants to share the stunning coastline has been fought with padlocks, gates, menacing signs, security guards, lawsuits and bulldozers. There seems little question who is winning: 20 of the 27 miles of Malibu coastline are inaccessible to the public..
Yet this month, the homeowners — including some of the wealthiest and most famous people in the country, but also a hearty colony of surfers, stoners and old-fashioned beach lovers — are confronting what may be the biggest threat to their privacy yet.
The smartphone. More
Court upholds California's foie gras ban
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that California can keep in place its ban on the sale of foie gras.
In doing so, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals signaled that a lawsuit filed by foie gras producers seeking to invalidate the California law was on its last legs. The appeals court said the producers of the delicacy - the fatty liver of a force-fed goose or duck - "failed to raise a serious question that they are likely to succeed on the merits" of the lawsuit. The producers wanted the appeals court to lift the ban while their lawsuit is under consideration in a Los Angeles federal court.
The three-judge appeals panel rejected the producers' arguments that the ban illegally interferes with commerce and is too vaguely worded, among other claims, indicating the court's doubts about the underlying lawsuit in the process. More
Ex-porn star Sandra Scream's new role: Irvine mom
The single mother sat down on her couch, taking a rare break. She showed off her child's finger paintings.
"Isn't she quite talented?" Zorena Dombrowski said of the colorful creations of 3-year-old Ashley, who was playing in the park with her nanny - another pristine morning in suburbia.
Dombrowski, her house filled with Disney toys, kiddie furniture and a 100-pound German shepherd named Oskar, reached for a small photo album. The floral cover sharply contrasted with the graphic pictures inside.
"These were taken by the director on the set," Dombrowski said of the Polaroids from the early 1990s, when she was famously known as Sandra Scream — one of the hottest names in the porn biz.
Now, she simply goes by Zorena. More
Sex Worker Says She's Made 'Close To $1 Million' Servicing Young, Rich Guys From Silicon Valley
Tech companies in the Bay area such as Facebook and LinkedIn have gone public and made their early employees wealthy. Increasingly, the young, rich employees are spending their fortunes on prostitution.
CNNMoney's Laurie Segall interviewed sex workers in the Bay area, as well as local authorities. All of them said prostitution was on the rise and technology is powering it. It has increased the list of clients, and it's making the prostitution business more efficient.
One sex worker says she uses Square, Jack Dorsey's mobile credit card swiper, to charge clients before visits. "As far as Square knows, it's a consulting business," the woman told Segall.
Another sex worker says she's made "close to $1 million" servicing young, rich men.
Segall says they're from "a number of major tech companies in the area, places where the IPO money has been flowing." More
California man faces 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk
Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.
According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from "mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.
In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children's chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south. More
CHP: Man arrested, cited for highway mule incident
A 65-year-old man was arrested just south of the Butler Bridge on Wednesday after allegedly walking three, fully-packed mules on the fast-lane shoulder of Highway 29, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Wednesday afternoon, authorities responded to reports that a man was walking mules on the northbound shoulder of Highway 29 toward the Butler Bridge, which has no shoulder, the CHP said. When officers arrived, the man allegedly became irate and was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, and not obeying traffic signs, an infraction.
John Sears was booked into the Napa jail at 3:30 p.m. on the charges, according to the booking report. A city of residence was not listed for the suspect, only California. More
Los Angeles Celebrates Independence Day with Random Bag Inspections
LOS ANGELES — Over 1,300 law enforcement and homeland security personnel participated in a counter-terrorism drill in downtown Los Angeles.
Operation Independence is a two-day, high-visibility training exercise that is “all about keeping L.A. safe,” according to Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s deputies – accompanied by explosive-sniffing dogs – will have a more visible presence at Union Station to perform random bag inspections, according to Nishida.
Transportation Security Administration personnel were also seen participating in the drill.
Holidays are always a high-profile time for terrorism, but there were no substantiated or credible threats ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. More
Fake Shark Warning Signs Posted in California
Shark Warning signs started popping up at popular beaches in Santa Cruz and Capitola Thursday.
But they are fake, according to state park rangers. It wasn't clear who posted the signs or why.
The bottom of the notice gave a possible clue. It told surfers to "surf Cowells instead."
Cowells is on Santa Cruz's west side; Pleasure Point, where the signs were posted, is on the east side. Apparently in the surfing world, those two surf spots have a long time rivalry. It could also have been an attempt to get the some of the surfers to leave Pleasure Point and head to Cowell.
It didn't work. Surfers breezed past the signs for the morning surf Thursday. More
Rate Shock: In California, Obamacare To Increase Individual Health Insurance Premiums By 64-146%
Last week, the state of California claimed that its version of Obamacare’s health insurance exchange would actually reduce premiums. “These rates are way below the worst-case gloom-and-doom scenarios we have heard,” boasted Peter Lee, executive director of the California exchange. But the data that Lee released tells a different story: Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.
One of the most serious flaws with Obamacare is that its blizzard of regulations and mandates drives up the cost of insurance for people who buy it on their own.
This problem will be especially acute when the law’s main provisions kick in on January 1, 2014, leading many to worry about health insurance “rate shock.” More
Cali utility to retire troubled San Onofre nuclear plant
The troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant on the California coast is closing after an epic 16-month battle over whether the twin reactors could be safely restarted with millions of people living nearby, officials announced Friday.
Operator Southern California Edison said in a statement it will retire the twin reactors because of uncertainty about the future of the plant, which faced a tangle of regulatory hurdles, investigations and mounting political opposition. With the reactors idle, the company has spent more than $500 million on repairs and replacement power.
San Onofre could power 1.4 million homes. California officials have said they would be able to make it through the summer without the plant but warned that wildfires or another disruption in distribution could cause power shortages. More
Amid bolt problems, new Bay Bridge span's opening date still unclear
Transportation officials said Wednesday that they need until at least May 29 to decide on possibly delaying the planned September opening of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, as they address problems with broken and suspect bolts.
California Transportation Commission Executive Director Andre Boutros told an Oakland meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that a steel "saddle" had been selected to replace the function of broken bolts made in 2008 and used to secure seismic "shear keys" on the east pier of the suspension span.
The saddle was deemed cheaper, easier to manufacture and less likely to damage the pier than an alternate "collar" design. The fix will involve installation of steel tendons that will be placed under tension and covered with concrete. Boutros estimated costs at $5 million to $10 million. But officials could not commit to the retrofit's completion in time for the planned Labor Day opening. More