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
DMV manager allegedly bragged about insurance after road rage incident
SACRAMENTO, CA - A case of road rage winds up in court, and the suspect at the center of it all is a DMV official.
Jessica Singh said last March she was driving north in the left-hand lane on Stockton Boulevard with her 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old niece in the backseat when a man started tailgating her. She said before she could get over, the man pulled into the turning lane to pass her. The two soon found themselves stopped side-by-side at the next traffic light; Singh said the man began taunting her.
"I kind of retaliated, and I threw a water bottle at his passenger window," Singh said. In hindsight she admits this wasn't a good idea.
"I think I was just heated at the moment," Singh admits.
But she never expected what happened next after the light turned green.
"He waited at that light and got behind me and rear-ended me about three times," Singh said. "He did it once and kept doing it over and over until his car was totalled." More
California Assembly OKs two bills related to transgender residents
Two bills aimed at eliminating obstacles facing transgender people cleared the Assembly largely along party lines Thursday, including one measure to let students choose the bathroom and sports team that correlates with their gender identity.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said his Assembly Bill 1266 would force school districts to comply with current laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender students.
Several school districts, including Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified, already have policies letting students participate in activities and use facilities for the gender they identify with. Ammiano said his bill ensures that all students have equal access.
"No student can learn if they feel they have to hide who they are at school or if they are singled out for unequal treatment," he said. More
AB 666 Bedevils Red Light Camera Foes
Those fighting traffic tickets they received thanks to red-light cameras have scored so many court victories that many cities, including some in Orange County, have abandoned the enforcement tool.
But now those battling red light camera tickets are trying to derail legislation that could end one's right to trial for those infractions.
California Assembly Bill 666, which was not authored by Satan but attorney and Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), appears at first glance to be as "non-substantive" as it claims to be, dealing with the signage and positioning of "automated traffic enforcement" and changing the word "jurisdiction" to "authority" in the penal code.
But a group has sprung up to "stop AB666" and "protect your right to a trial for traffic tickets."
Advocates planned to flood Wieckowski with calls today against the bill, among them Huntington Beach lawyer R. Allen Baylis, who has successfully fought cases involving red-light cameras throughout Orange County. More
California's $910 Million ObamaCare Exchange
How much does it cost to open one of ObamaCare’s state-run health exchanges? In California, the answer is nearly $910 million and counting.
Health policy consultant Robert Laszewski notes that California has already received a little more than $909 million in federal grants—an amount that’s actually $32 million less than the state’s exchange director asked for. Does that sound like a fair price? It’s not really possible to make a direct comparison to any private sector initiative, but Laszewski provides some useful context:
For some additional perspective I took a look at what it cost to launch the private insurance marketing site, Esurance. That company sells not only health insurance but also things like homeowners and auto insurance across the country. When I put my zip code into their system along with my age, they offered me 87 different health plans from all the big players in my area. Now granted, the new health insurance exchanges are more complex because they have to interface with Medicaid and the IRS as well as calculate subsidies. But the order of magnitude difference in what it cost to launch esurance compared to the California exchange is pretty big. More
California High-Speed Rail Construction To Start This Summer
SACRAMENTO — The state’s High-Speed Rail Authority has nearly doubled the size of its staff in the past six months and expects the first phase of construction to be “under contract and under way this summer,” the agency’s CEO told lawmakers Monday.
CEO Jeff Morales testified before the Assembly Transportation Committee in what its chairwoman called “the next chapter of legislative oversight” after debates last summer that culminated in the decision to appropriate the first $8 billion for what would be the nation’s first high-speed rail system.
“Getting to that point was no easy feat,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. “That vote was a turning point. Until then, it was appropriate to debate the merits of the project. Now it’s time to move forward without regrets.”
Despite that admonition from the committee chairwoman, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, challenged Morales about what he suggested were overstated claims about the number of jobs the project will create, the lack of private investment and the wisdom of proceeding when the prospect of additional federal funding appears dim. More
Ex-Guests Sue Downtown Hotel Where Tourist’s Body Was Found In Water Tank
LOS ANGELES — Two former guests sued a downtown Los Angeles hotel where the body of a Canadian tourist was found in a water tank on the roof.
Steven and Gloria Cott filed the suit Tuesday against the Cecil Hotel, located at 640 South Main Street.
The pair paid $150 on Feb. 12 for two nights at the hotel, according to the complaint. “Before entering into the agreement, the plaintiffs were told that the payment for lodging included payment for running water which was suitable for human ingestion and showering,” the suit said.
Last Tuesday, the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, who was last seen at the hotel Jan. 26, was discovered in a water tank by a maintenance worker after guests complained of low water pressure.
Health officials said a test of the water found no live bacteria that would cause illness. More
$402 million: San Onofre repair, replacement power
The cost to inspect and repair faulty steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant reached $102 million by the end of 2012, while the cost to replace lost power hit $300 million, Edison International said Tuesday in a report on company costs. The quarterly report showed a total of $402 million in combined costs; future costs remain uncertain.
But the manufacturer of the steam generators has repaid $45 million to Edison under a warranty agreement, and Edison has submitted a total of $106 million in invoices, expected to further reduce the repair and inspection total.
The plant has been shuttered for more than a year. Four steam generators, two for each reactor at San Onofre, were installed between 2009 and early 2011 in a $671 million operation, but a small leak of radioactive gas prompted shutdown of the Unit 3 reactor Jan. 31. More
Pot farms wreaking havoc on Northern California environment
EUREKA, Calif. — State scientists, grappling with an explosion of marijuana growing on the North Coast, recently studied aerial imagery of a small tributary of the Eel River, spawning grounds for endangered coho salmon and other threatened fish.
In the remote, 37-square-mile patch of forest, they counted 281 outdoor pot farms and 286 greenhouses, containing an estimated 20,000 plants — mostly fed by water diverted from creeks or a fork of the Eel. The scientists determined the farms were siphoning roughly 18 million gallons from the watershed every year, largely at the time when the salmon most need it.
"That is just one small watershed," said Scott Bauer, the state scientist in charge of the coho recovery on the North Coast for the Department of Fish and Game. "You extrapolate that for all the other tributaries, just of the Eel, and you get a lot of marijuana sucking up a lot of water.… This threatens species we are spending millions of dollars to recover." More
New tax increases in California stir debate about adding to exodus
A vote last month that makes Californians among the highest-taxed residents in the country is sparking debate about whether the Democrat-back initiative will backfire, by forcing high-earners to join a long exodus from the cash-strapped state.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown successfully pushed the tax increase by suggesting that high-earners must shoulder the largest burden in bailing out the state, particularly its debt-ridden public school system.
However, high unemployment and government debt have already sent residents fleeing in large numbers – an estimated 225,000 annually for the past 10 years.
And the recently passed tax increase for families making more than $250,000 each year could further shrink the tax base for California, whose 2012 budget deficit is projected to hit $28 billion. Much of the debate has raged among California advocacy groups and in the editorial pages of the state’s biggest and most influential newspapers. More
California gun sales have risen, gun injuries have decreased
California has millions more guns than it did 10 years ago. It also has thousands fewer gun injuries and deaths each year.
Those are two simple facts that, depending on whom you ask, have everything or nothing to do with each other.
Last month's horrific Connecticut school shooting has reignited the debate over gun control in California, a state with some of the nation's strictest gun laws. State legislators will likely take up additional gun law proposals later this year, ranging from further limits on ammunition purchases to requiring regular background checks for gun owners.
If recent trends hold, that debate will take place as gun sales boom and gun injuries fall. More
Naked Protesters Disrupt Final Vote To Uphold San Francisco Nudity Ban
SAN FRANCISCO – A ban on nudity in San Francisco was given final approval by the city’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday in a raucous meeting at which several people stripped naked in board chambers.
The ordinance, which will prohibit nudity on city streets, sidewalks, plazas and other public spaces, was initially passed 6-5 during the board’s Nov. 20 meeting and was approved again Tuesday afternoon by the same vote.
Supervisor Jane Kim initially gave the legislation a seventh vote of support but later rescinded her vote, saying she had been distracted and accidentally voted yes. Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar and Christina Olague were the other four supervisors to oppose the ban.
Several men and women stripped down after the first vote Tuesday afternoon and began yelling at the supervisors. They were led out of board chambers by sheriff’s deputies, who draped blankets over them since public nudity is not allowed at City Hall. More
California Still Awash in Guns Despite Pioneering Gun Regulations
Despite being ranked ahead of every other state on gun controls, California still faces enormous challenges in how to reduce gun violence as a result of the millions of weapons already in circulation in the state and the complexity of laws intended to regulate them.
These are the stark figures: Since 1991, 9 million guns were sold legally in California alone. Only about 1 percent of people seeking to buy them were unable to do so because of background checks. Over 1,300 types of weapons have been approved for sale by California's Department of Justice - although the department points out that "private party transfers, curio/relic handguns, certain single-action revolvers, and pawn/consignment returns are exempt" from state approval.
And these figures don't include unregistered weapons - those bought and sold illegally - and those brought legally to California from other states. More
PG&E Snafu Stalls School Solar Program
The handwriting's on the wall: The future of California power generation is rooftops. Large investor-owned utilities face the prospect of rewriting their business plans to reflect that fact. It's pretty much inevitable that they'll be leaving the power generation business and becoming power brokers, selling each of us power generated in our neighborhoods by our neighbors. But change comes slow to big companies, and a Mendocino County school district is paying the price -- literally.
According to reporter Jennifer Poole at The Willits News, an acre of solar panels installed by the Willits Unified School District at four locations earlier this year have been sitting idle due to bureaucratic mixups at Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). The utility's Net Energy Metering office approved the six installations, but then PG&E's newly formed Generation and Interconnection Services (GIS) group revoked the approval.
District officials say PG&E's GIS office has been less than forthcoming with information that might help the project hook up to the grid, at one point telling Josh Margarison, foreman of the district's solar contractor Fort Bragg Electric, that the office was too busy to get back to him. Fort Bragg Electric has installed school solar systems elsewhere in Mendocino County. More
California gets face scanners to spy on everyone at once
In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring.
Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud.
It’s done with state of the art facial recognition technology, and in Southern California it’s already happening.
At least one law enforcement agency in San Diego is currently using software developed by FaceFirst, a division of nearby Camarillo, California’s Airborne Biometrics Group. It can positively identify anyone, as long as physical data about a person’s facial features is stored somewhere the police can access. Though that pool of potential matches could include millions, the company says that by using the “best available facial recognition algorithms” they can scour that data set in a fraction of a second in order to send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision.
“Live high definition video enables FaceFirst to track and isolate the face of every person on every camera simultaneously,” the company claims on their website. More
Brown puts priority on Cali's space travel industry
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Gov. Jerry Brown has just made space exploration a priority for California. As the space shuttle Endeavour flew over Sacramento Friday, the governor signed a bill that will help push commercial flight into space forward.
Under the new law, the governor gave California aerospace pioneers like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and the Spaceship Company immunity from liability if space flight passengers are injured on board. It's a move NASA applauds because that will enable them to concentrate on other missions like going to Mars or asteroids.
"We expect commercial companies will be taking people just like you and me into space for rides, maybe go to space hotels and do other kinds of business," NASA spokesperson Donald James said.
Hitching a ride atop a jumbo jet, the retired Endeavour crisscrossed California in a tribute to all the people in this state who contributed to America's space shuttle program. The prospect of ordinary people being able to fly commercially into space was exciting to Endeavour's spectators.
"I'd be on that thing in a heartbeat," Jack Martin said. "To see our world from up there? You can't get any better than that." More
Condom Law Has Porn Biz Vowing To Pull Out Of L.A.
The porn industry is looking for a few new positions.
In the wake of a newly approved measure requiring adult-film actors to wear condoms in Los Angeles County, producers and others in the pornography business are vowing to flee an area already plagued by runaway film production.
The countywide ballot initiative known as Measure B passed with 56 percent of the vote on Tuesday, despite critics dismissing it as unenforceable and major news outlets like the Los Angeles Times saying it will likely “stymie county government and bring little benefit to performers.” In addition to forcing porn performers to wear condoms during shoots, the measure also requires adult-film producers to obtain special public health permits on top of the film permits that are already required.
Vivid Entertainment Group, the largest producer and distributor of pornographic films in Los Angeles, has already stated its intention to flee the county if the new law is put into place, telling Variety that it plans to move to another county within the state. More
Looking for solutions to state's water woes, California cities fall short with desalination
MARINA, Calif. - In the Central California coastal town of Marina, a $7 million desalination plant that can turn salty ocean waves into fresh drinking water sits idle behind rusty, locked doors, shuttered by water officials because rising energy costs made the plant too expensive.
Far to the north in well-heeled Marin County, plans were scrapped for a desalination facility despite two decades of planning and millions of dollars spent on a pilot plant.
Squeezing salt from the ocean to make clean drinking water is a worldwide phenomenon that has been embraced in thirsty California, with its cycles of drought and growing population. There are currently 17 desalination proposals in the state, concentrated along the Pacific where people are plentiful and fresh water is not.
But many projects have been stymied by skyrocketing construction costs, huge energy requirements for running plants, regulatory delays and legal challenges over environmental impacts on marine life. Only one small plant along Monterey Bay is pumping out any drinking water. More
Gov Brown takes emergency action to try to reduce gas prices
Gov. Jerry Brown took “emergency steps” Sunday to try to bring down record gas prices in the state.
He directed the California Air Resources Board to increase the fuel supply by allowing the immediate sale and import of cheaper and more available winter-blend gasoline.
The move would reduce the price of gas in California by 15 to 20 cents per gallon, probably within a few days, said energy expert Chris Faulkner of Dallas-based Breitling Oil and Gas.
“This would immediately increase the supply of gasoline in California,” Faulkner said, but he cautioned that it would take a few days for the governor’s move to be reflected at the pump.
“Gas goes up quickly and comes down slowly,” Faulkner said. More
L.A. to consider multi-use library cards for illegal immigrants
Los Angeles officials are considering a plan to turn the library card into a form of identification that the city's large illegal immigrant population could use to open bank accounts and access an array of city services.
The City Council unanimously voted recently to consider the proposal, which would have Los Angeles join the growing number of cities across the nation that offer various forms of identification to undocumented workers and others who cannot get driver's licenses because of their immigration status.
Though L.A.'s plan would not be as sweeping as those adopted by cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, it would be a major step in serving the estimated 300,000 residents who don't have bank accounts or debit cards.The ID card would include a user's name, address and a photograph, and would be issued through the city's libraries. The city would partner with a private vendor to set up bank accounts for those who want to use the library ID as a debit card. Banks generally require official identification to open an account. More
California regulator defends CO2 market design
Industry and manufacturing groups that have opposed the carbon market said at a meeting held by the state's air regulator in Sacramento that the program was poorly designed, and complained that their input has been ignored.
Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), said she opposed one of those groups' main requests -- for the state to give oil refineries and manufacturers 100 percent of the tradable emission permits they'll need to surrender to the state in 2014 for free.
She said that could give certain companies undeserved windfall profits and send a signal of instability to businesses that have already invested in low-carbon technologies in the state.
"Easing the transition is one thing; leaving the entire industrial sector outside the arena where every other member of society, from forestry to municipal sewage treatment plants is taking aggressive measures to reduce their emissions is just plain unacceptable," Nichols said. More
Mexican man admits to voter fraud
A Mexican who was deported decades ago for drug trafficking pleaded guilty this week to living illegally in Escondido under a false identity and fraudulently voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, federal authorities said Friday.
Ricardo Lopez-Munguia, 45, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted entry to the U.S. after deportation, making a false claim to U.S. citizenship, and voter fraud by an illegal alien, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
Lopez-Munguia faces a maximum term of 28 years in federal prison, followed by deportation. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19 in San Diego. In 1986, Lopez-Munguia was convicted of heroin trafficking. A federal judge ordered him to be deported the following year.
Lopez-Munguia assumed the identity of Gustavo Carranza-Madrigal, a U.S. citizen, and obtained a fraudulent California driver's license, a Social Security card and a U.S. passport, according to the statement. More
California School District Will Spend $1 Billion to Borrow $100 Million
It’s being called a loan not even a subprime lender would make.
A school district north of San Diego, Poway Unified, borrowed $105 million over 40 years by selling a bond so unusual that the State of Michigan outlawed it years ago. Taxpayers in the area will end up with a nearly $1 billion bill at the end of this deal.
The Poway school district is not the only one — three other California school districts in San Diego are set to gouge taxpayers in similar fashion. The San Diego Unified School district borrowed $164 million up front, but will owe a whopping $1.3 billion at the end of its long-term bond. Oceanside Unified sold a $30 million bond, but will owe nearly ten times as much decades later, $280 million total. And Escondido Union School District likewise borrowed $27 million and will owe $247 million total.
The bonds are a "kick the can" move to avoid dinging taxpayers now with higher property taxes. Oh, and the bonds are not callable -- they can’t be paid off early or refinanced. More
Bad Bling: LA Jewelers Cited for Selling Lead Tainted Jewelry
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Backing up repeated warnings about selling toxic jewelry the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) announced today that the state Attorney General's Office has filed a complaint against 16 businesses that have allegedly been supplying retailers or directly selling Californians jewelry containing high levels of lead. In addition, CEH has initiated legal action against another six jewellers for alleged violations of the state's Proposition 65 law. Some of the toxic jewelry had labels claiming to be "lead free."
A total of 343 tainted jewelry items, some of which were imported from Asia, were discovered as part of DTSC‘s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from unnecessary toxic chemicals in everyday products.
The jewelry items, most of which were discovered at Joia Trading, Inc., located at 1020 S. Crocker Street, Los Angeles, contained metals which are potentially toxic to people, especially young children. DTSC alleges the 15 other businesses named in the complaint supplied the lead-tainted jewelry to Joia Trading. Furthermore, DTSC and CEH discovered some jewelry items for sale which contained high levels of cadmium, a toxic metal. More
Japan's radiation found in California bluefin tuna
For the first time, scientists have detected radioactivity in fish that have migrated into California waters from the ocean off Japan, where radiation contaminated the sea after explosions tore through the Fukushima nuclear reactors last year
. Radioactive cesium was detected in samples of highly prized Pacific bluefin tuna, but it is well below levels considered unsafe for humans, the scientists say.
The evidence is "unequivocal" that the tuna - caught off San Diego a year ago - were contaminated with radiation from Japan's nuclear disaster, the researchers said.
Virtually all bluefin tuna on the market in the United States is either farmed or caught far from the Fukushima area, so American consumers should not be affected by radiation contamination in their fish, seafood distributors say. The migratory bluefin studied by the researchers were all caught by sport fishermen and were not headed for the market. More
Man who buried a busload of school children alive in quarry, then demanded ransom, released from prison
CHOWCHILLA, Calif. — One of three men who kidnapped a busload of California school children has been released from prison after more than 35 years behind bars.
State prison officials said Thursday that Richard Allen Schoenfeld was released on parole to an undisclosed location late Wednesday. He will be monitored 24 hours a day with a GPS device.
An appeals court ordered his release earlier this year, ruling that the Board of Parole Hearings unfairly set his parole date for 2021 even though it concluded he wasn’t a threat to society.
Schoenfeld and two others were convicted in the 1976 kidnapping. Their captives — students from Chowchilla and their bus driver — managed to escape when the kidnappers decided to take a nap before calling in their ransom demand. More
Berkeley chief used police to look for son's phone
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, already under fire for sending an officer to a reporter's house after midnight, ordered police - some on overtime - to look for his teenage son's stolen cell phone in Oakland, authorities said Monday.
Officers did not file a police report about the January incident, "an oversight that came to our attention when researching your questions," said police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, a department spokeswoman.
On Jan. 11, Meehan's son reported that somebody stole his iPhone from his locker at Berkeley High School. The phone was equipped with tracking software. The chief showed his own phone to the property crimes sergeant, who deployed his team and drug task force officers to look for the missing phone, Kusmiss said.
The signal stopped updating the phone's position near 55th Street and San Pablo in North Oakland. The phone wasn't found. More
California 9/11 Fund Raided for Deficits
After the 2001 terrorist attacks, California lawmakers sought a way to channel the patriotic fervor and use it to help victims' families and law enforcement. Their answer: Specialty memorial license plates emblazoned with the words, "We Will Never Forget."
Part of the money raised through the sale of the plates was to fund scholarships for children of California residents who perished in the attacks, while the majority — 85 percent — was to help fund anti-terrorism efforts.
But a review by The Associated Press of the $15 million collected since lawmakers approved the "California Memorial Scholarship Program" shows only a small fraction of the money went to scholarships. While 40 percent has funded anti-terror training programs, $3 million was raided by Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to plug the state's budget deficit.
Millions more have been spent on budget items with little relation to direct threats of terrorism, including livestock diseases and workplace safety. More
Bill requires custody for bringing gun into airport in California
Four months after a California assemblyman was cited and released for carrying a gun into an airport, the Assembly passed legislation Monday that would require offenders to be taken into custody in such situations.
Democratic Assemblywoman Norma Torres said her Assembly Bill 2182 did not stem from the January incident involving Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, which occurred at an Ontario airport on the first day of this year's legislative session.
"This issue is about protecting the public," Torres said of her bill.
With Republicans opposed, the Assembly voted 46-25 to approve Torres' bill. Donnelly voted no on the bill but did not speak during floor debate. AB 2182 now goes to the Senate. More
Barstow man dies after officers use Taser on him
BARSTOW - A Barstow man died after law enforcement officers used a Taser to subdue him early Monday morning, police said.
Around 2 a.m., California Highway Patrol dispatch received a call about an accident involving a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle on the northbound side of the 15 Freeway around South Lenwood Road, according to CHP Officer Mario Lopez.
"The driver of the vehicle called CHP dispatch and said that nobody was hit by a car," Lopez said. "But one of the passengers in the car jumped out while the vehicle was still moving and was on the freeway." Lopez said CHP and police officers arrived to find the passenger on the freeway.
"The unidentified man, who appeared to be in his 20s, began to throw rocks at the patrol officers," Lopez said. "He ran across the entire span of I-15 as officers pursued him using their Tasers to subdue him and contain the situation." They discovered after handcuffing him that he wasn't breathing and he had no pulse, Lopez said in a phone interview Monday. More
Four tons of floating marijuana fished off California
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard have found and recovered 180 bales of marijuana floating off Dana Point in southern California. The pot weighing four tons and worth about $3.6 million was turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol on Sunday.
Authorities found the floating marijuana after receiving a tip. The local sheriff and coast guard then sent a boat to the site 15 miles from the coastal town of Dana Point.
The U.S. Border Patrol is investigating where the marijuana came from, according to the agency’s agent Scott Simon. The agent said it was puzzling that there was no boat spotted in the area at the time the floating pots wrapped in plastic was discovered. More
Man's Raw Egg Spiritual Cleansing Ends in Rape
A 36-year-old San Clemente man was behind bars today on suspicion of raping a woman in a bizarre "spiritual cleansing" ritual in a Santa Ana motel room, police reported.
Alberto Flores-Ramirez was arrested Tuesday afternoon at a discount store during a police sting, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. Flores-Ramirez thought he was meeting with the alleged victim a second time, Bertagna said.
Flores-Ramirez and the 33-year-old Simi Valley woman initially met on the social networking site called Badoo, Bertagna said.
The woman told Flores-Ramirez that she was hoping to bring her two young children to the United States from Mexico, and he said he could help her with that if she underwent a "spiritual cleansing" ritual, Bertagna said. More
Wal-Mart To Pay $2.1M Penalty For Overcharging In Cali
Wal-Mart Wednesday agreed to pay $2.1 million for overcharging California customers and violating a previous judgment for the same problem.
When Walmart stores throughout the state were first caught advertising one price on the shelf and charging a different, higher price at checkout, the retailer was ordered to stop the practice.
A 2008 judgment required Wal-Mart to pay $1.4 million and to adhere to a "Get it Free" program for four years. The program required that if customers are overcharged, they immediately get $3 off the lowest advertised price of the item, or they receive the item for free if it is less than $3.
A November 2010 investigation by the Departments of Weights and Measures found continued errors in pricing at Walmart checkout stands in 11 counties. More
San Diego Board Tentatively Approves 'Spice' Ordinance
SAN DIEGO -- In an effort to stop the sale of mind-altering chemicals marketed as bath salts or herbal incense, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday tentatively approved an ordinance declaring them a public nuisance and making stores that sell them in unincorporated areas subject to civil abatement actions.
The board also voted 5-0 to support of legislation aimed at outlawing the products.
"Combining these two measures will put San Diego County at the forefront of the efforts to combat what is a growing and dangerous problem facing our society," Supervisor Greg Cox said.
Some bath salts contain amphetamine-like chemicals. Man-made cannabinoids -- the class of psychoactive compounds in marijuana -- are used in products sold as K2, spice, or herbal incense and typically sold online, in liquor stores or smoke shops. More
Homeland Security helps arrest prostitute in California
County and federal law enforcement officers cited four women at a massage parlor in Vista following an undercover sting, a sheriff's sergeant said Sunday.
The site, Happy Foot Massage Parlor at 913 E. Vista Way, came under law enforcement scrutiny after hearing complaints that a large number of men were visiting the establishment during the day and evening, San Diego County Sheriff's Sgt. Joe Mata said.
Over the last few weeks, sheriff's deputies joined with federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the shop, Mata said.
The sting targeted prostitution, but the women were citing only on suspicion of violating a number of city municipal codes, including unlawful touching, unlicensed massage therapists, failure to have insurance and unsanitary conditions, according to information provided by Mata. More
California Asks Judges: Gay or Straight?
In order to make sure gays and lesbians are adequately represented on the judicial bench, the state of California is requiring all judges and justices to reveal their sexual orientation. The announcement was made in an internal memo sent to all California judges and justices.
“[The Administrative Office of the Courts] is contacting all judges and justices to gather data on race/ethnicity, gender identification, and sexual orientation,” reads an email sent by Romunda Price of the Administrative Office of the Courts. A copy of Price’s memo was obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
“Providing complete and accurate aggregate demographic data is crucial to garnering continuing legislative support for securing critically needed judgeships,” Price writes.
The process of self-revealing one’s sexual orientation is an element of a now yearly process. “To ensure that the AOC reports accurate data and to avoid the need to ask all judges to provide this information on an annual basis, the questionnaire asks that names be provided. The AOC, however, will release only aggregate statistical information, by jurisdiction, as required by the Government Code and will not identify any specific justice or judge.” More
Cali Investigates Skin-Lighteners for Dangerous Mercury
SAN FRANCISCO -- There could be a dark side to skin-lightening creams often found in stores that cater to ethnic communities.
Starting next week, California health officials will collect and test a sampling of skin-lightening products in the Bay Area for possible mercury contamination. Health officials launched the investigation in response to a spate of mercury poisoning cases linked to the tainted face creams that are made outside the United States.
A handful of cases emerged in the mid ‘90s, but it was a 2010 case involving a 39-year-old Latina and her family in Alameda County that spurred the state to action.
Coordinators of a health study found the East Bay resident with dangerously-high mercury levels, and notified state health officials.
An investigation traced the source of her mercury poisoning to an unlabeled jar of face cream, which relatives from Virginia had brought back from Mexico and given to her. More
PETA Sues to Get SeaWorld Orcas Freed from 'Slavery'
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KTLA) -- Attorneys for the People for the Ethical Treatment of animals planned to ask a federal judge Monday to free five orcas from SeaWorld.
The group argues that five orcas -- Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky -- should be protected by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that bans slavery and involuntary servitude.
Kasatka, Corky and Ulises are in orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego, while Tilikum and Katrina are in Orlando, Fla.
PETA announced plans to sue SeaWorld several months ago, claiming that it was, "...keeping orca whales in slavery." More
Gang, Mexican Mafia members arrested in major drug ring sweep
A top Escondido gang member was among the more than 100 people arrested Wednesday morning in one of the largest criminal sweeps conducted by local law enforcement officials in recent memory, authorities said.
They said Rudy Espudo, 39, of Escondido is a member of the notorious Mexican Mafia gang, who ran a criminal enterprise in North County involving several Latino gangs. Espudo was one of 119 people in San Diego County, and one of two Mexican Mafia members, charged with participating in a massive drug and firearms trafficking ring, authorities said.
Dozens of police, state and federal agents participated countywide in early morning arrests of 104 gang members and associates, including 48 in North County.
"Citizens woke up safer this morning than they were before they went to bed last night," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a news conference in San Diego announcing the federal indictments. She was surrounded by representatives of various local law enforcement agencies, including the Sheriff's Department, San Diego County District Attorney, Escondido Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department and Oceanside Police Department. More
Boxer, Feinstein both supported SOPA/PIPA
The grassroots and corporate tech rebellion against two Internet censorship bills was, by all accounts, a stunning success and a demonstration of the clout of online politics and web organizing -- and the emergence of Big Tech as a potential counterbalance to Big Entertainment.
But it's worth noting as the dust settles that two of the biggest supporters of SOPA and PIPA were the senators from California, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein.
Raw Story points out that Boxer was a major recipeint of Hollywood money:
California To Run Out Of Cash In One Month, Controller Warns
California will run out of cash by early March if the state does not take swift action to find $3.3 billion through payment delays and borrowing, according to a letter state Controller John Chiang sent to state lawmakers today.
The announcement is surprising since lawmakers previously believed the state had enough cash to last through the fiscal year that ends in June.
But Chiang said additional cash management solutions are needed because state tax revenues are $2.6 billion less than what Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers assumed in their optimistic budget last year. Meanwhile, Chiang said, the state is spending $2.6 billion more than state leaders planned on.
The Assembly budget committee approved a bill today that would enable $865 million of borrowing from existing state accounts, Senate Bill 95. Chiang, after consultation with the Department of Finance and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, is also seeking about $2.4 billion in delayed payments to universities, counties and Medi-Cal, as well as additional borrowing from outside investors. More
California: the Female State
California is the land of women's rights, feminine empowerment, gender equality and strong female warriors from every walk of life.
Often called "The Female State," California has long been famous for its remarkable women who influence the community, the state, the nation and the entire planet with strength, skill, intuition, determination, confidence, glamor and raw feminine power.
California's strong female role models include entrepreneurs, activists, inventors, mothers, wives, politicians, ministers, designers, soldiers, astronauts, teachers, musicians, CEOs, athletes, philanthropists, judges, pilots, bodybuilders, scientists, producers, evangelists, models, directors, police officers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, mechanics and social leaders.
Of all lands on the earth, California is the one place where a girl is raised to believe she can conquer any obstacle, fulfill any dream, fight every battle and become anything she imagines. More
New laws on shark fins, tanning beds
Hundreds of bills approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor take effect with the start of the new year, including laws banning minors from using tanning beds, raising the age that children must use car booster seats and prohibiting the open carrying of handguns.
The Legislature's work in the last year resulted in 745 new laws, though some already have gone into effect while others will be fully enacted in future years.
In 2010, there were 733 laws enacted. Both years saw significantly fewer new laws than in the past few decades.
Former Gov. Ronald Reagan approved the most laws in any year - 1,821 in 1971, according to the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, which keeps track of those statistics.
Here are some of the major laws that will go into effect:
Tanning beds: People younger than 18 will be prohibited from using ultraviolet tanning devices, removing the ability of those between ages 14 and 18 to use the devices with parental consent. Doctors can still prescribe the use of the devices when medically necessary. The first-of-its kind in the nation measure is SB746, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County).
Shark fins: California will ban the importation of shark fins, while fins that already are in the state can be sold and used until July 2013, when a total ban takes effect. The measure is AB376, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino.
Alcohol sales: Shoppers will be barred from purchasing alcoholic beverages using self-check out registers at supermarkets or other stores. The measure is AB183, by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco.
Cough medicine: People younger than 18 would be banned from over-the-counter purchases of products that contain dextromethorphan, an ingredient used in many cough medicines that when taken in high doses can cause hallucinations, loss of motor skills and dissociative sensations. The measure is SB514, by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
Diversity: Requires that public schools include historical contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as well as people with disabilities, in social science instruction and teaching materials. The measure is SB48, by Leno.
Handguns: The open carrying of unloaded handguns will be prohibited. The ban does not apply to law enforcement, people permitted to carry loaded weapons in public, or to people selling weapons at gun shows. The measure is AB144, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County). More
State hopes to break car owners' habit of changing oil too often
California launches a campaign against the widespread notion that oil changes are needed every 3,000 miles. Officials say the practice wastes millions of gallons of oil a year.
Many automobile owners are spending more than they need on motor oil, believing that it should be changed every 3,000 miles even though almost no manufacturer requires such an aggressive oil-change schedule.
The long-held notion that the oil should be changed every 3,000 miles is so prevalent that California officials have launched a campaign to stop drivers from wasting millions of gallons of oil annually because they have their vehicles serviced too often.
"Our survey data found that nearly half of California drivers are still changing their oil at 3,000 miles or even sooner," said Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery, which has launched the Check Your Number campaign to encourage drivers to go with the manufacturer's recommendations. More
2 million Californians report mental health needs; most receive little or no treatment
Nearly 2 million adults in California, about 8 percent of the population, need mental health treatment, but the majority receive no services or inadequate services, despite a state law mandating that health insurance providers include mental health treatment in their coverage options, a new report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows.
The report, which provides some of the first comprehensive data in recent years on the mental health of California's adult population, found that one in 12 Californians reported symptoms consistent with serious psychological distress and experienced difficulty functioning at home or at work.
Over half of these adults reported receiving no treatment for their disorders, and about one-quarter received "inadequate" treatment, defined as less than four visits with a health professional over the past 12 months or using prescription drugs to manage mental health needs. More
State says 1,000 care facilities match sex offender addresses
The addresses for more than 1,000 state-licensed care facilities for vulnerable people in California matched addresses on the state sex offender registry, according to a newly released audit.
State Auditor Elaine M. Howle said the California Department of Social Services failed to check the sex offender registry even after her office advised it to do so in 2008.
The facilities matching the registry of sex offenders included foster homes, group homes and day-care facilities for children, as well as facilities for adults with special needs and the elderly.
The auditor informed state regulators of the 1,000 sex offender hits in July. Investigations are now complete and the state said eight licenses have been revoked or suspended and regulators issued 31 orders barring individuals from licensed facilities.
The audit was ordered earlier this year at the request of state Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno). The audit was also intended to compile data on deaths of children who were under the oversight of child protective services. More
Suit Claims Kids Exposed To High Lead Levels At Disneyland
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- An environmental group filed for an injunction Tuesday to force Disneyland officials to either coat or remove lead on objects and features throughout the park.
Dozens of leaded-glass windows and brass rail chains, door knobs and drinking water fountains at some of Disneyland's most popular attractions expose children to high levels of lead, according to the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation.
While lead can cause brain damage if ingested, it is not considered toxic to touch.
The foundation filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in April against Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc., alleging excessive levels of lead in such commonly touched objects as the Sword in Stone attraction, where Disneyland photographers encourage children to pose while pulling on the sword handle, according to the organization's President William Verick.
Other objects containing lead include brass door knobs at Minnie's House and stained-glass windows in a door at the beauty salon in Cinderella's Castle. More
Repeal of death penalty could save millions of dollars, analysis finds
A nonpartisan analysis of a California ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty found that it could save the state and counties in the "high tens of millions of dollars" every year.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office review of the proposed initiative, which hasn't been cleared for signature gathering yet, put it in the middle of a debate over what the death penalty costs and what should be done about it. Some critics of the death penalty think it actually costs much more than the analysis said, while supporters of capital punishment think executions should be streamlined, not stopped, in order to cut costs.
The initiative was proposed in August after a bill to repeal the death penalty stalled in the state Legislature. In addition to eliminating capital punishment, the measure would require those convicted of murder to work in prison and provide $100 million over four years to local law enforcement to help solve homicide and rape cases. The proposal likely faces a rough road ahead, as a recent Field Poll found a strong majority of Californians want to keep capital punishment, even as an increasing number prefer life in prison without parole. More
Convicted Rapist Who Was Deported Found In Cali
ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- A convicted rapist who was deported to Mexico following his prison sentence was back behind bars Friday after being identified during a traffic stop in Escondido, police said.
Jesus Armando Flores-Trujillo, 29, was convicted of rape in Escondido in 2001 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released from prison in October 2010 and immediately deported, according to Escondido police.
About 11:50 p.m. Monday, officers pulled over a vehicle in the area of Centre City Parkway and Felicita Avenue because of a vehicle code violation and found Flores-Trujillo was a passenger in the vehicle, EPD Lt. Craig Carter said.
He identified himself by a false name and admitted to being in the country illegally but stated he had never been deported or arrested, Carter said. More
$69 million in Cali welfare money drawn out of state
Sacramento — More than $69 million in California welfare money, meant to help the needy pay their rent and clothe their children, has been spent or withdrawn outside the state in recent years, including millions in Las Vegas, hundreds of thousands in Hawaii and thousands on cruise ships sailing from Miami.
State-issued aid cards have been used at hotels, shops, restaurants, ATMs and other places in 49 other states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, according to data obtained by The Times from the California Department of Social Services. Las Vegas drew $11.8 million of the cash benefits, far more than any other destination. The money was accessed from January 2007 through May 2010.
Welfare recipients must prove they can't afford life's necessities without government aid: A single parent with two children generally must earn less than $14,436 a year to qualify for the cash assistance and becomes ineligible once his or her income exceeds about $20,000, said Lizelda Lopez, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services. More
California pot shops ordered to shut down within 45 days
The Obama administration is finally cracking down on the medical marijuana industry, in a big way. In letters received by 16 licensed California dispensaries and their landlords this week, U.S. Attorneys threatened to swoop in and seize the properties if they don’t close up shop within 45 days.
The Associated Press said that a coordinated crackdown on the medical marijuana industry would be announced at a press conference on Friday.
The move comes in the same week that the Internal Revenue Service took steps that may force Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, to shut down.
The same enforcement tactic that’s being used against Harborside — a very old law that prohibits groups that traffic in controlled substances from taking tax deductions — could also be used against pot shops in all of the 16 states that have legalized the drug’s use for medical purposes. More
Wiener to Penalize Rude Nudists
SAN FRANCISCO — The right to bare all in San Francisco might soon come with some restrictions under legislation that was proposed at Tuesday afternoon’s Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall.
The legislation, which was introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, would require those going nude to cover public seating before sitting down and put on clothes before entering restaurants.
Wiener’s district includes the Castro, which has seen a recent increase in public nudity, according to his office.
The supervisor said the legislation would ensure that public health standards are maintained by requiring nudists to put a towel or other item between their body and a public seat.
“San Francisco is a liberal and tolerant city, and we pride ourselves on that fact,” Wiener said in a statement. “Yet, while we have a variety of views about public nudity, we can all agree that when you sit down naked, you should cover the seat, and that you should cover up when you go into a food establishment,” he said. More
California Schools Turn Away Unvaccinated Students
California schools are turning away middle and high school students who have not received the whooping cough vaccine.
Students are now required to get the vaccine under a law passed last year after a historic spike in cases of the potentially fatal disease.
The law initially required all students entering grades seven through 12 to get vaccinated by the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
Lawmakers passed a 30-day extension as districts worried many students wouldn't meet the deadline. Students can still attend if their parents file a form saying they oppose vaccines.
San Francisco Unified School District on Thursday began sending home students who arrived without proof of vaccination. More
Cost of high-speed rail project balloons
For two years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said it could build 520 miles of high-speed train tracks between San Francisco and Los Angeles for about $43 billion.
But that figure – long derided as unrealistic by critics – went off the rails this month when the authority released detailed environmental reports for its proposed Merced-Fresno and Fresno-Bakersfield sections, the first two segments the agency wants to start building next year.
The authority's most optimistic estimates for the San Joaquin Valley sections alone total about $10 billion; route choices could run the price to $13.9 billion.
That's a far cry from the 2009 estimate of $8.1 billion.
If projected costs can rise by as much as 71 percent in the Valley – a relatively flat, straightforward stretch – what will happen when tracks must be built through mountains and across cities in the Bay Area or Southern California? More
Why did a Russian billionaire give Newsom a $400 pen?
Every year, California politicians receive gifts from supporters and friends – sports tickets, bottles of wine, trinkets and other items that by law can be worth no more than $420 apiece. For the most part, the gifts are ignored by the press and the public.
But every so often, one stands out. Why, for example, did someone give a $398 Louis Vuitton pen to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom?
The pen is interesting not for its value or because there is evidence that it garnered political influence, but because the donor was a shadowy Russian billionaire who has no known connection to his reported address in San Francisco.
After noticing the gift on Newsom’s state disclosure report, California Watch started calling around.
The billionaire is Dmitry Rybolovlev, 44, a businessman and physician from Perm in central Russia. In 2010, he was worth approximately $8.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine – the 79th-richest person in the world. More
LAPD eases impound policy for illegal immigrants
In a move closely watched by other Southern California law enforcement agencies, LAPD Chief Chalie Beck has ordered his officers end the practice of immediately seizing the cars of undocumented immigrants who are stopped at sobriety checkpoints.
The move comes amid concerns that police were unfairly targeting those drivers. The news came as a relief for Maria Ranjel of Boyle Heights. Her husband and three sons are undocumented immigrants who drive all the time, even though they're ineligible to apply for drivers licenses in California.
“We know well that it’s against the law to drive without a license but it’s just because of need that we do it – to take our kids to and from school, to go to and from the market," Ranjel said through a translator. "It’s just too hard to take the bus.”
Ranjel said police repeatedly have stopped her husband and sons at sobriety checkpoints, and impounded their cars. It’s cost the family thousands of dollars. She is part of an activist group called L.A. Voice that’s been lobbying police to ease their impound policies.
Ranjel was elated LAPD Chief Charlie Beck agreed. “I wanted to shout with joy at the news. It’s just good news for the Latino community."
Under the LAPD’s new policy, officers will give unlicensed illegal immigrants “reasonable time” to find someone else to drive their car home. It only applies at sobriety checkpoints and only if the driver isn’t drunk or otherwise wanted by police. More
Why Los Angeles Schoolkids Get Lousy Meals
At 12:33 p.m., the lunch bell rings at Los Angeles High School. Moments later comes the stampede. Kids — 2,000 of them — burst through the cafeteria doors, pushing and shoving, funneled through the serving area like ants in an ant farm.
Among them is Stephanie Hernandez. It's her first day here at the city's oldest public school. She is 17, pretty with long black hair, and as a junior enrolled in the math and science magnet program she spends the entire day on the third floor, away from "the kids who tag and the kids who ditch." The cafeteria, unfortunately, is on the first floor. By the time Hernandez hefts her books and races downstairs, the lunch line is enormous. By the time she gets within arm's reach of the food itself, the bell signaling the end of 30 minutes rings.
Lunch is over. Her empty stomach growls. That afternoon, she can't concentrate. At home, her dad urges her to try again. He's a single father, an electrician, and his income qualifies her for a free, federally subsidized school lunch. More
L.A. County's Private Property War
In Llano, in the middle of the Southern California high desert, a bewhiskered Jacques Dupuis stands in front of what was once his home. His laid-back second wife, Marcelle, her long, silver hair blowing in the breeze, takes a drag on her Marlboro Red as they walk inside and, in thick French Canadian accents, recount the day in 2007 when the government came calling. "That's the seat I have to offer you," she tells a visitor, motioning to the exposed, dusty wooden floor planks in what was once a cozy cabin where Jacques spent much of his life, raising his daughter with his first wife.
On Oct. 17, 2007, Marcelle opened the door to a loud knock. Her heart jumped when she found a man backed by two armed county agents in bulletproof vests. She was alone in the cabin, a dot in the vast open space of the Antelope Valley, without a neighbor for more than half a mile. She feared that something had happened to her daughter, who was visiting from Montreal.
The men demanded her driver's license, telling her, "This building is not permitted — everything must go." Normally sassy, Marcelle handed over her ID — even her green card, just in case. Stepping out, she realized that her 1,000-square-foot cabin was surrounded by men with drawn guns. "You have no right to be here," one informed her. Baffled and shaking with fear, she called her daughter — please come right away. More
Southern Cali Considers Seceding from the Golden State
Is the state of California about to go “South”?
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone apparently thinks so, after proposing that the county lead a campaign for as many as 13 Southern California counties to secede from the state.
Stone said in a statement late Thursday that Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Kings, Kern, Fresno, Tulare, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties should form the new state of South California.
The creation of the new state would allow officials to focus on securing borders, balancing budgets, improving schools and creating a vibrant economy, he said.
“Our taxes are too high, our schools don’t educate our children well enough, unions and other special interests have more clout in the Legislature than the general public,” Stone said in his statement.
He unveiled his proposal on the day Gov. Jerry Brown signed budget legislation that will divert about $14 million in 2011-12 vehicle license fee revenue from four new Riverside County cities. More
California Small Businesses Rise Up Against Proposed Internet Tax
Facing huge budget deficits and still struggling economically, the California assembly has passed an internet tax to increase state revenues.
The proposed bill, ABX1 28, seeks to collect sales tax for goods purchased online by extending the online seller's "nexus" to include affiliate marketers who drive traffic to the seller's site.
Unfortunately, the net effect of the bill would not be to increase tax revenues, but to drive affiliate marketers out of state rather than to jeopardize their ties with retailers like Amazon, who most likely would sever ties with them rather than be forced to collect sales tax.
As the issue rear its ugly head, 25,000 Californian small businesses affected by the proposal made known their opposition to the budget trailer bill. Unlike the internet sales tax proposal dubbed the "Main Street Fairness Act" which would level the online vs. brick and mortar playing field by requiring sales tax to be collected on all internet purchases by residents of states with relevant sales tax, the California bill's extension of nexus would only result in retailers like Amazon dropping Californian affiliates just as they did with Arkansas and Connecticut after "Amazon tax" legislation was passed by those states. More
La Jolla Fireworks: A Legal Dud?
The July 4th fireworks show at La Jolla Cove is at high risk of fizzling out by way of a legal ruling. Its backers and city lawyers went to court Thursday, lobbying to save it.
Unless Judge Linda Quinn changes her mind overnight, the case will go from Superior Court on Broadway to the state Appeals Court on "B" Street.
Environmental activists are willing to let all the concerned parties off the legal hook -- except for the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation.
"The notion that we can't celebrate the 4th of July without the fireworks show in La Jolla is absurd," says attorney Marco Gonzalez, representing the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, which is challenging the fireworks show. More
Mom Gives 8-Year-Old Daughter Botox
A beautician is boasting that she injects Botox into her 8-year-old daughter's face every three months so she can be a "star."
Kerry Campbell also arranges body waxes for her girl. "I wish that I'd had the same advantages when I was younger," she told the Sun of London.
"I know one day she will be a model, actress, or singer, and having these treatments will ensure she stays looking baby-faced for longer," added Campbell, who is from Birmingham, England, but now lives in San Francisco. More
SF Voters Asked to Ban Circumcision
A ban on circumcision could end up on San Francisco's November ballot.
A voter in the city says he will submit more than 12,000 valid signatures to the elections office today. That's more than the 7,200 needed to get the measure on the ballot.
The proposed new law would make it a misdemeanor to circumcise a person before they are 18-years-old.
"We don't come at this from a religious angle," Lloyd Schofield told the San Francisco Examiner. "We feel this is a very harmful thing. Parents are guardians. They are not owners of children. It's a felony to tattoo a child." The Department of Elections has 30-days to review the signatures and determine if the measure qualifies for the November ballot. More
Los Angeles May Now Require Rainwater Harvesting
Los Angeles has proposed a new water management law that would require rainwater harvesting on all new homes, large developments, as well as on some redevelopment projects. The Department of Public Works unanimously approved the new ordinance in January for the increasingly parched region. It requires various methods to capture, reuse or infiltrate all of the rainwater runoff that is generated by a 3/4 inch rainstorm.
In addition to encouraging the use of rain storage tanks, builders would be required to use other low-cost and sensible water management methods; these include simple measures, like diverting rainfall to gardens, constructed infiltration swales, mulch and permeable pavement, all of which will help to sustainably direct the rain directly where it falls. Any builders who are unable to manage 100% of a project’s runoff on-site would be required to pay a penalty of $13 a gallon for the water that is not safely redirected. This fee will help to fund sustainable off-site water management projects. More
No proof of insurance can result in getting towed
Riverside resident Charles Kolb said he believes that if a driver is stopped by police in California and cannot show proof of car insurance, the driver gets a ticket -- but the vehicle won't be towed.
"The state and police departments will say California is a compulsory insurance state," Kolb wrote in an e-mail. "Not true. Compulsory means two things: mandated and enforced ... No other state that I know of says they are 'compulsory,' yet allows (uninsured people) to continue to drive."
California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez replied that an officer can "issue a citation to a driver who fails to provide evidence of financial responsibility in accordance with California vehicle code section 16028(a)."
In effect, that section requires drivers to provide proof of insurance on the spot if an officer asks for it.
Section 16029 explains the penalties (fines) for not being able to show proof of financial responsibility, but it also allows courts to impound a car in addition to levying a fine, Lopez said. More
Millions at stake in IRS audit of Oakland medical marijuana dispensary
Harborside Health Center proclaims itself the world's largest marijuana dispensary. For certain, it is California's most ambitious – a holistic care center with a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, chiropractor, yoga instructors and therapists in "universal life force energy."
Its Oakland facility handles $22 million in annual medical marijuana transactions.
Now Harborside is attracting scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service. Since last year, the IRS has been auditing 2008 and 2009 federal tax returns for the Oakland location, one of two outlets Harborside operates for 70,000 medical marijuana users. The other facility is in San Jose.
The outcome may eventually establish whether U.S. tax authorities treat medical marijuana as a legitimate enterprise or illicit drug trafficking.
IRS tax code passed during the Reagan administration to keep drug dealers from making business deductions could cost Harborside millions of dollars in tax deductions for salaries, overhead and the expenses of buying and furnishing medical pot. More
Peta holds naked shower protest in Hollywood... and causes car crash
To be fair, it's not something you'd expect to see while driving - even in LA.
Cameras were rolling yesterday when animal rights group Peta caused a car crash during a naked shower protest.
The driver had been distracted by the beautiful, naked models soaping themselves in a makeshift shower on the side of the road.
He ploughed his grey sedan straight into the back of a white pick-up truck at a stoplight in front of him.
CBS cameras captured the entire incident. Fortunately the damage appeared to be minimal, and the only thing wounded seemed to be the driver's pride.
Peta's models were baring all and showering in public to promote a vegan lifestyle. More
California man killed by armed bird at cockfight
DELANO, California - A man who was at an illegal cockfight in central California died after being stabbed in the leg by a bird that had a knife attached to its own limb, officials confirmed Monday.
Jose Luis Ochoa, 35, of Lamont, California, was declared dead at a hospital about two hours after he was injured in neighboring Tulare County on Jan. 30, the Kern County coroner said. An autopsy concluded Ochoa died of an accidental "sharp force injury" to his right calf.
Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said it was unclear if a delay in seeking medical attention contributed to Ochoa's death.
"I have never seen this type of incident," Sgt. Martin King, a 24-year veteran of the sheriff's department, told the Bakersfield Californian. Ochoa and the other spectators fled when authorities arrived at the scene of the fight, King told the newspaper.
Deputies found five dead roosters and other evidence of cockfighting at the location, he said. More
Cali Taxpayers Paying For Inmates To Send Love Letters
10News discovered California taxpayers are footing the bill for California inmates to send love letters to other inmates.
"It's absolutely insanity," said Nina Ashord of Crime Victims United of California. "From a crime victim's standpoint, I find it extremely offensive and from a tax payer's standpoint."
Some letters described the sex acts female inmates promised to perform on their pen pals.
If an inmate can't afford an envelope, a stamp or paper to write on, the state will pay for it through the indigent mail program.
"I would tolerate that to have people have more appropriate connections that have them live better lives," said Kent Peters, who has corresponded with a death row inmate for 11 years. "The good it does, I'm sure, far outweighs some inmates playing some word games with their loved ones out there." More
Drivers Pulled Over During Cell Phone Sweep
SAN DIEGO -- A year and a half after a state law made hands-free devices a requirement for drivers using a cell phone, law enforcement officers said San Diegans cannot seem to end their old habits.
10News went with a California Highway Patrol officer on Tuesday during its second crackdown on cell phone violators and saw that not all San Diegans are getting the message about the dangers of driving and using their cell phones.
"They're not under the influence, they're 'intexticated,'" said CHP Officer Brian Pennings. "They're under the influence of their phone." More
Obama Administration Supports Drugmakers in Calif. Hospital Prices Suit
Last week, the Obama administration surprisingly sided with pharmaceutical companies accused of overcharging public hospitals and clinics, the New York Times reports.
The administration told the Supreme Court that hospitals and clinics cannot sue drug companies for increased drug discounts or to obtain reimbursement from companies that overcharge. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Jan. 19.
Details on Drug Discounts
The case involves a suit filed by Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties against AstraZeneca and other drugmakers.
A drug-discount program was created in 1992 as a way for federal officials to regulate agreements with drug companies and set maximum prices for drugs sold to certain health care providers, including
More than 15,000 U.S. hospitals and clinics participate in the discount program, which slashes prescription drug prices by up to 50%. More
Cali Drivers Face Higher Traffic Fines In 2011
California motorists, already in sticker shock over rising fines for parking and traffic tickets, should prepare for more beginning New Year’s Day, The Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The state is adding $4 to the price of every traffic ticket. The fee will pay for emergency air transport services because of a revenue shortfall in Medi-Cal funding. It is set to generate an estimated $34 million a year through 2016, according to state estimates, The Times reported.
The increase is the latest in a string of fee increases statewide and in Los Angeles, as governments turn to motorists to pay more amid budget problems. Last year, the state increased the fines for traffic tickets and used the proceeds to help renovate courthouses. The changes included a $35 surcharge on traffic tickets, the newspaper reported.
Another law taking effect Saturday opened the door to a potential revenue stream for cities: allowing local agencies to install cameras on street sweepers to catch parking violators. More
By 2036 'Subway to the Sea' Still Won't Reach the Beach
It's hard to call the Westside Subway Extension project the "Subway to the Sea" if it's only slated to go as far as Westwood.
With the expensive, massive, long-term project being funded and built in increments, we're already going to have to wait until 2036 (quick, do the math, add 25 years to your current age) to be able to get off the train at the VA.
LA Times columnist Steve Lopez takes on the topic, bemoaning the fact that it's not likely that in his lifetime he can get on a subway in Los Feliz with his beach gear and hop off in the sand, ready to take on the Pacific's waves.
Lopez points out a classic Los Angeles transit fail parallel:
"We've got a train to the airport that doesn't go all the way to the airport, so why not a train to the ocean that barely makes it to the marine layer?" More
Los Angeles Wants To Tax Medical Marijuana
Should the city of L.A. tax your medical weed? In these hard times, it could certainly use the cash. But would it be legal?
After all, the state's medical marijuana law didn't really anticipate the kind of for-profit pot sales that L.A. dispensaries are known for. Under the law cannabis was really supposed to be shared among "seriously ill" members of nonprofit "collectives."
In L.A. that notion has been stretched to the legal limit -- so far that District Attorney Steve Cooley has said almost all the dispensaries in the city are illegal. So the city's going to tax that?
Yep, says Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who proposed $50 in city sales taxes on every $1,000 of "cash and in-kind contributions" to dispensaries for pot. More
School Forces Boy To Take Flag Off Bike
DENAIR, Calif. -- A Stanislaus County school is forcing a student to take an American flag off of his bike.
Thirteen-year-old Cody Alicea put the flag there as a show of support for the veterans in his family. But officials at Denair Middle School told him he couldn't fly it. He said he was told some students had complained.
So now the eighth-grader folds up the flag and puts it in his backpack while he is in class.
His father, Robert Kisner, said his son should not have to put the flag away. "He's got that flag on his bike because he's proud of where he comes from," Kisner said.
But the superintendent said he's trying to avoid tension on campus.
"(The) First Amendment is important," Superintendent Edward Parraz said. "We want the kids to respect it, understand it, and with that comes a responsiblity." More
Overestimate fueled state's landmark diesel law
California grossly miscalculated pollution levels in a scientific analysis used to toughen the state's clean-air standards, and scientists have spent the past several months revising data and planning a significant weakening of the landmark regulation, The Chronicle has found.
The pollution estimate in question was too high - by 340 percent, according to the California Air Resources Board, the state agency charged with researching and adopting air quality standards.
The estimate was a key part in the creation of a regulation adopted by the Air Resources Board in 2007, a rule that forces businesses to cut diesel emissions by replacing or making costly upgrades to heavy-duty, diesel-fueled off-road vehicles used in construction and other industries. More
Experts: Mystery contrail off CA was from Chinese missile
Although the U.S. Defense Department and North American Aerospace Defense Command have speculated publicly that the unidentified contrail of a projectile soaring into the skies off the California coast – and recorded by a KCBS television crew – came from a jet and posed no security threat to the U.S., several experts are raising provocative and disturbing questions about the government's official response, reports Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.
Two governmental military experts with extensive experience working with missiles and computer security systems have examined the television video and conclude the mysterious contrail originating some 30 miles off the coast near Los Angeles did not come from a jet – but rather, they say the exhaust and the billowing plume emanated from a single source nozzle of a missile, probably made in China.
They further suggest the missile was fired from a submerged Chinese nuclear submarine off America's coast, and point out that the timing of the alleged Chinese missile shot coincided with an increasing confrontation between the U.S. and China. More
Lawyer sues over attending male retreat
A lawyer is suing a Newport Beach lawsuit firm, alleging that his employers stopped paying him because he didn't want to attend a personal-development seminar during which men talk about their sex lives.
A partner at the personal injury firm, Bisnar/Chase, said Friday that the lawsuit is a frivolous claim filed by a former employee seeking money.
Steven C. Eggleston filed the lawsuit
in August against the firm and its partners, John Bisnar and Brian Chase. Eggleston
– who became an employee in July 2009 – alleges the firm stopped giving him monthly
wages after he refused to attend a "New Warrior Training" seminar in February
organized by the global nonprofit group, The Mankind Project.
Prop 19 goes up in smoke
Voters in California rejected a proposal Tuesday that would have legalized small amounts of recreational marijuana.
If approved, under Proposition 19, the state would have been the first to say it is OK to use and possess marijuana for anything other than medical purposes. California legalized medical marijuana 14 years ago and was the first state to do so.
The newest proposal would have allowed people in California who are 21 and older to carry less than an ounce of pot and cultivate the plants on up to 25 square feet of private land. Marijuana would have still been illegal under federal law. MoreCali Prepares To Issue Marijuana Bonds If Prop 19 Passes
California may back new state debt with marijuana taxes if proposition 19 legalizing the drug passes, according Amy Resnick of Bond Buyer.
Resnick cites attendees at California Public Finances Conference who are suggesting the market would accept the plan, if it is legalized.
Add another reason to the growing list for California to pass Proposition 19. More
Companies fleeing Cali for Utah over confiscatory tax rate
Computer software giant Adobe, computer game monster EA Games, and Internet auction king ebay are abandoning California to set up shop in Utah. Why? California’s horrid business climate and high taxes.
Adobe Systems, maker of a suite of graphics programs such as Adobe PDF, Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, have announced that they are building a $100 million facility in either Salt Lake City or in nearby Utah County, Utah. The facility will bring thousands of jobs to Utah over the next few decades.
In May the Internet auction company ebay also announced a major new facility to be built in Salt Lake City. The $287 million data center will also bring hundreds of new jobs to the Bee Hive State.
Not to be forgotten, games maker Electronic Arts opened its new facility in July in Salt Lake City where around 100 employees are already at work. More
RVs Dumping Human Waste on Venice Streets
VENICE, Calif. - Authorities in Venice have removed about a dozen RVs from one neighborhood after complaints about human waste being dumped on the street.
HazMat crews cleaned up the area around Rose and Third avenues Tuesday night after receiving complaints from Venice residents and activists.
The LAPD then made the owners of about 12 RVs move them out out of the area.
A local activist known as "Boston Dawna" said no one was cited. She said the RVs were back in the same spots by Wednesday morning.
A woman who allegedly uncapped a sewage tank on an RV on Pacific Avenue near Fleet Street, letting waste spill out as her partner drove the vehicle, was arrested over the weekend. More
Bikers Make Noise On Quiet Motorcycle Bill
CALABASAS, Calif. -- The laid-back vibe of this affluent Los Angeles suburb gets a jarring wakeup on weekends when hundreds of motorcycles thunder through the Santa Monica Mountains, triggering car alarms, rattling windows and jolting alive barking dogs.
"They rev their engines with complete disregard for the people who live here," complained neighborhood resident Tonia Aery. "It's obnoxious."
Aery's wish for peace and quiet could come true after the state Senate passed a bill this month that would make it a motor vehicle violation to ride a roaring hog. The only catch is that the decision now falls to the state's biker-in-chief, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an avid motorcyclist.
Schwarzenegger's fellow riders - still bitter over an 18-year-old state law requiring helmets - are hoping he'll veto the law. More
Cowboy Fire started by two illegal immigrants
Campo, Calif. – The Cowboy Fire, which has burned 822 acres, was started by two illegal immigrants who were in distress, Cal-Fire reports.
“They called C4, which is Mexico’s emergency dispatch system, and advised them that they had been lost for two days, were stranded, dehydrated, and were going to light a signal fire to attempt to get some help,” said Roxanne Provaznik, public information officer for Cal-Fire.
The information was relayed to the U.S. Border Patrol. CAL FIRE worked with Border Patrol agents to try and locate the two individuals, but were unsuccessful. Investigators from CAL FIRE and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined that there was evidence near the area of origin of illegal aliens traveling through that area, which supports this report. More
CHP Officer Sentenced For Ramming Wife's Car
VISTA, Calif. -- A Highway Patrol officer who was off-duty when he drove drunk and rammed his wife's car in Oceanside pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor DUI and reckless driving charges and was sentenced to five years probation.
As part of his probation, Armando Arriaga, 46, was ordered to have no negative contact with his wife and to perform 10 days of public work service and 100 hours of community work service, said Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe. Arriaga pleaded guilty before Vista Judge Richard Mills, who immediately sentenced the defendant.
The prosecutor said at a hearing last month that Arriaga was driving under the influence of alcohol when he followed his wife down North Coast Highway about 7 p.m. on July 7, after they had an argument at home. More
Suffer These Crimes in Oakland? Don't Call the Cops
Oakland's police chief is making some dire claims about what his force will and will not respond to if layoffs go as planned.
Chief Anthony Batts listed exactly 44 situations that his officers will no longer respond to and they include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism. He says if you live and Oakland and one of the above happens to you, you need to let police know on-line.
Some 80 officers were to be let go at midnight last night if a last-minute deal was not reached. That's about ten percent of the work force.
"I came here to build an organization, not downsize one," said Batts, who was given the top job in October. More
Del Mar firm signs deal for Mexican wind farm
A Del Mar company said Wednesday it plans to spend up to $1 billion to build as many as 500 wind turbines on the mountains between Tijuana and Mexicali to provide power to the United States and Mexico.
Cannon Power Group said it signed a 10-year deal with Spanish wind giant Gamesa for the wind turbines, technical support and additional work on the 1,000-megawatt Aubanel Wind Project.
If built as planned beginning next year, the project will dwarf wind farms proposed for the mountains of San Diego County and will put towers as high as 25-story buildings with blades bigger than the wings of a Boeing 747 on desert ridges in a region of striking wind-carved rock formations spread over 140 square miles.
Cannon has built wind farms in California, he said, but getting permits got so difficult that it is focused on building elsewhere. It still sells power into the state to take advantage of California rules that require a certain percentage of electricity to come from the sun, the wind and other renewable sources. More
'In-N-Out' hometown bans new drive-through restaurants
BALDWIN PARK, Calif. — The birthplace of California's drive-through craze has had its fill of fast food restaurants.
Amid complaints of obesity and lines of idled cars stretching into neighborhood streets, this blue-collar town is banning new drive-throughs in hopes of shedding its reputation as a haven for convenient, fatty foods.
It's an ironic development for a community that proudly claims to have opened California's first drive-through restaurant more than 60 years ago — a little joint named, appropriately enough, In-N-Out.
"We here in Baldwin Park have taken strides to create a healthy community, and allowing one more drive-through in is not going to meet that goal," said Baldwin Park city planner Salvador Lopez, who helped craft the ordinance that takes effect Fourth of July weekend. More
Worm-poop claims fertile grounds for lawsuit
Are worm feces fertilizer or pesticide? For Encinitas entrepreneur George Hahn, it's the $100,000 question.
Hahn says his Worm Gold, Worm Gold Plus and Tree Rescue Solution, which are primarily made from worm castings, enrich the soil and enable plants to repel bugs. But the California Department of Pesticide Regulation says that claim makes Worm Gold a pesticide, and Hahn has failed to get government approval to sell the products as pesticides.
Last year, the pesticide department fined Hahn $100,000 for not getting approval. It has put that penalty on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court. The suit was filed on his behalf by the free market-oriented Pacific Legal Foundation, and is to be heard July 30 by Judge Timothy M. Frawley. The First Amendment right to free speech is at stake, says the foundation, because Hahn is making a truthful claim. More