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
Santa Clara County Bans Fast Food Toy Giveaways
County officials in Silicon Valley trying to curb childhood obesity voted Tuesday to ban restaurants from giving away toys and other freebies that often come with high-calorie meals aimed at kids. The ordinance is largely symbolic as it would only cover unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County, meaning only about a dozen fast-food outlets and several other family-owned restaurants would be affected.
But its chief sponsor says it's still important because it paves the way for other areas to act, may spur action by fast-food chains to offer healthier choices and can help parents by taking away a child's incentive for wanting less healthy food. More
CARB’s punitive approach
Failing to file a report. That’s it. That’s all Nor-Cal Produce in West Sacramento did. And in late March it cost the small, family-run fruit and vegetable wholesaler $32,550.
“The California Air Resources Board [CARB] last month came to terms with a West Sacramento, Calif. produce company for $32,550 for failing to submit its TRU facility report,” stated a March 30, 2010 CARB press release which called the case a matter of “diesel emissions violations.” “ARB investigators found that NorCal Produce did not submit the required facility report by the 2006 deadline, as required by the transport refrigeration unit [TRU] air toxic control measure [ATCM].”
Of course, the company was actually facing $43,400 in penalties (or more) but qualified for a 25 percent discount because of, as CARB spokesman Dimitri Stanich put it, “cooperative actions on the part of the business.” More
California Mexican Americans protest students wearing American flag on Cinco de Mayo
The fallout is continuing in California following an incident in which five students were sent home for wearing shirts with the American on Cinco de Mayo Wednesday.
The incident happened at the Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, about an hour south of San Francisco.
On Thursday, May 6, about 50 students, many carrying the Mexican flag, walked out of classes. The students told reporters that they thought it was disrespectful for the students to wear the American flag on their shirts while others were celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
The school's principal claimed the students wearing the flag was a safety issue because it could spark fights between students.
Others called the school hypocritical because dozens of students wore the colors of the Mexican flag but they were not sent home. More
Marijuana legalization will be on California ballot
A California voter initiative that would legalize possession and sale of marijuana has qualified for the November ballot, state election officials said on Wednesday, in what supporters called a "watershed moment" for their cause.
Passage of the measure, by no means certain, would make California the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana.
Backers believe the state could be at the vanguard of a national movement toward decriminalizing the drug.
"This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which has spearheaded the ballot initiative.
"Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources and making criminals out of countless law-abiding citizens," he said. More
California 35th Among All States in Maternal Mortality
In releasing a new report on maternal health nationwide, Amnesty International today revealed that flaws and shocking disparities in maternal health care that the government is ignoring lead to two to three women dying daily in the United States from pregnancy-related complications, with half of these deaths believed preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A state-by-state examination shows that California is 35th on a maternal mortality ranking, with 11.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.
The new Amnesty International report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, also reveals that severe pregnancy-related complications that nearly cause death -- known as "near misses" -- are rising at an alarming rate, increasing by 25 percent since 1998; currently nearly 34,000 women annually experience a "near miss" during delivery. With a lifetime risk of maternal deaths that is greater than in 40 other countries, including virtually all of the industrialized countries, the United States has failed to reverse the two-decade upward trend in preventable maternal deaths, despite pledges to do so. More
Anti-Gay Cali Politician cited for DUI after leaving gay bar
An anti-gay California state senator was placed under arrest for drunk driving after leaving a gay bar. A male passenger was in the vehicle along with the lawmaker was not arrested, reported Sacramento CBS affiliate Channel 13.
State Sen. Roy Ashburn was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol at about 2:00 a.m. on March 3 when his state-issued vehicle was observed being driven erratically. The driver, identified as Ashburn, was taken in and charged for driving under the influence. Channel 13 reported that unidentified sources said the senator had been at Faces, a popular gay nightspot, prior to his arrest.
In a March 4 article, the online news site Talking Points Memo characterized Ashburn, who is married and has four children, as "a fierce opponent of gay rights" who had led anti-marriage equality rallies.
Ashburn issued a contrite apology, stating, "I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment. I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did." More
California’s Economy: Worse Than Originally Thought
The Great Recession’s impact on California’s job market is worse than analysts originally thought. The state has lost nearly 1.4 million jobs since the recession began in California in July 2007, according to revised data from the Employment Development Department.
That’s 339,000 more jobs lost than the data suggested prior to the recent revisions. If it’s hard to fathom this hole in the job market, consider this: Losing 1.4 million jobs is equivalent to losing the entire population of Sacramento County.
In fact, California now has about the same number of jobs as it did 11 years ago, when the state was home to 3.6 million fewer working-age individuals.
This means that the Great Recession has wiped out an entire decade of job growth, while the number of individuals who want jobs has continued to grow. More
State Senate Passes Medicare for All Legislation
To ecstatic applause from healthcare advocates, the California Senate today breathed new life into national prospects for fundamental health reform by passing on a 22 to 14 vote a major bill to guarantee healthcare in the state through creating a Medicare for all system that would cover every Californian.
SB 810, The California Universal Healthcare Act, authored by Sen. Mark Leno and sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), with broad support among many healthcare, community, and labor groups, will now proceed to a vote by the Assembly, which has passed similar legislation in the past. The bill would establish a single-payer system in California, modeled on the healthcare systems flourishing in virtually all other industrialized nations, where better patient outcomes are achieved at a fraction of the cost of the U.S. system.
“It is unclear what the prospects are for health reform at the national level,” said CNA co-president Geri Jenkins, RN, “but this vote offers California the chance to chart a new course for the nation. SB 810 will guarantee healthcare for every family through a humane system that controls costs and allows patients and their doctors -- not insurance agents -- to make decisions about healthcare,” said Jenkins. “People will pay less, and no longer be denied care based on their income, age, location, or pre-existing health conditions.” More
Rise of the Tire Nazis
CARB is proposing to require every repair dealer to check the inflation of every tire during repair to improve mpg for all vehicles which, in theory, is meritorious.
However (the) regs. CARB’s pushing through provides that the only times that consumers may decline a check and inflate service—they can never decline the service if it’s offered for free—is when they are charged for services AND if they can PROVE (with DOCUMENTATION!) that they’ve had their tires checked and inflated in the last 30 days, or if they WILL do so within the next week. It is unclear, but possible, that CARB could take enforcement action against the consumer if they don’t follow through with their promise?!
Unless (Automotive Service Providers) offer the (tire check/inflation) service for free to the consumer and the consumer accepts it, the regulation would have the effect of either forcing the ASPs to check tires without the consent of the consumer in violation of the ... Automotive Repair Act, or force ASPs to refuse to provide any repair services at all to the consumer. More
New Year, New Laws: California's 2010 Rulebook
On January 1 many new laws will go into effect in California. A whole alphabet of them, in fact, according to the Merced Sun-Star's A-Z list. A scan of the list elicits a variety of responses -- from relief to head-scratching. Here's a sampling, as categorized by us.
Law SB 572 designates May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day and requires schools to observe the birth date of the assassinated gay rights leader as a "day of special significance."
AB 305 puts people in jail if they are convicted of failing to report oil spills, or lying about them.
AB 1015 makes it a misdemeanor to sell or give nitrous oxide -- aka "laughing gas" -- to a minor.
Law SB 527 will allow the operation of bikes without seats on state roads, as long as the bike was built that way on purpose. SB 609 will extend a law that allows the importation of products made with alligator and crocodile parts. SB 135 makes it a misdemeanor to chop off a cow's tail, except for when it's medically necessary. More
Schwarzenegger Seeks Obama’s Help for Deficit Relief
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, anticipating a $21 billion state budget deficit, plans to ask President Barack Obama to ease mandates and minimums on social programs to save as much as $8 billion.
The Republican governor plans to seek the relief, according to a California official who asked not to be identified because details haven’t been resolved. Instead of seeking one-time stimulus money or a bailout, the most-populous U.S. state wants the federal government to reduce mandates and waive rules stipulating expenditures on programs such as indigent health care, the official said.
California is among states most affected by the economic recession. It has the lowest credit rating and recorded the nation’s second-highest rate of home foreclosures, trailing only Nevada.
Unemployment peaked at 12.5 percent in October amid the loss of 687,700 jobs from the year before, when the jobless figure was 8 percent. Wealth declined as the stock market lost 40 percent of its value in 2008. More
New Year's Eve Fireworks At San Diego Bay Canceled
SAN DIEGO - The annual New Year's Eve fireworks show over San Diego Bay has been canceled after an environmental group threatened to sue over pollution concerns, it was announced Tuesday.
The cancellation comes after the Coast Law Group, on behalf of the nonprofit Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, sent a notice of intent to file a Clean Water Act lawsuit against the Port of San Diego over fireworks shows on the bay.
The port and San Diego Port Tenants Association sponsor the annual shows.
The notice stated that firework displays on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July release "substantial amounts of pollution into San Diego Bay" in violation of the Clean Water Act. More
'Cool' car rules could affect radios, phones
California's latest requirement for the auto industry -- advanced window glazing to keep vehicles cooler -- could prevent drivers from making phone calls, listening to satellite radio or using garage door openers.
It also could lead Chrysler Group LLC to stop selling its soft-top convertible Jeep Wrangler in the Golden State. The standard for sunroofs is so tough that automakers warn the glass would have to be "effectively black."
The California Air Resources Board has adopted a new "Cool Cars" regulation ordering advanced glazing of windows to block the sun's heat and reduce the need for air conditioning. Windows must be coated with microscopic specks of metal oxide to reflect sunlight.
Advocates say the requirements will reduce the temperature inside vehicles, saving gasoline and cutting greenhouse gases. More
Non-Endangered Fish More Important than California Farmers
Water restrictions that were imposed by our Federal Government in order to protect a little fish called the Delta Smelt, is putting California farmers out of business. You’ve heard about this, right? The Delta Smelt is a little fish that lives abundantly in Asia. The tiny creature found its way over to America and landed in Southern California. The smelt’s habitat is the source of water pumped to 25 million people in Southern California and the Bay Area. The Department of Water Services has shut down pumping from the delta during the smelt’s most vulnerable times. This in turn, has left the farmers with no water to irrigate their fields, thus causing our American Farmers to lose their crops and to help raise the unemployment rate in the area to a whopping forty percent!
The fish has been placed on the endangered species list, but what is not being reported is that the fish thrives in Asia. We want to report that the Delta Smelt is not an endangered species, but it is more important than our own farmers. Our Government is allowing these California Farmers to lose their fields, their employees, their jobs and their very livelihood, all for the sake of a 2-3 inch long fish that is native to Asia. More
California to withhold a bigger chunk of paychecks
Starting Sunday, cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners -- holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.
Technically, it's not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers' annual tax bills won't change.
Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You'll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less.
But with rising gas costs, depressed home prices and double-digit unemployment, the state's added reach into residents' regular paycheck isn't sitting well with many. More
Lack of driver's license, no bar to getting insurance
No driver's license, no car insurance, right? Wrong.
Auto insurance companies have realized what other businesses, including banks and car dealers, have: Illegal immigrants represent a large and lucrative market.
That is especially true in the Golden State, where analysts say about a quarter of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants live.
Many of those immigrants work and are willing to pay a premium for car insurance, even if they are unlicensed. "We are not immune to accidents and it's the law," said Erica Avila, an undocumented immigrant in Escondido who has a car insurance policy. "We want to have whatever documents we can get." More
Two Northern California Salmon Rivers Go Dry As Spawning Season Begins
FORT JONES, Calif. - In the absence of action by responsible agencies, Klamath River advocates including Klamath Riverkeeper are mobilizing legal and grassroots responses to a water flow crisis of species -- exterminating proportions in the Scott and Shasta tributaries to the Klamath.
Flows in the Scott River bottomed out at an all time record low of less than one cubic foot per second (cfs) this week, according to a UnitedStates Geological Survey (USGS) flow gage at Fort Jones -- far below the average of 69 cfs for this time of year. Large areas of the river have gone completely dry, stranding endangered coho salmon as well as Chinook and steelhead in shallow, disconnected pools of water.
The adjacent Shasta River isn’t faring much better, with flows as low as 6 cubic feet per second, below its average of 30 cfs for this time of year. Both streams are critical fish habitat within the Klamath River watershed and are dewatered by excessive irrigation withdrawals in the Scott and Shasta Valleys of Northern California. More
Women, Children Raped In County's 'Most Dangerous Area'
SAN DIEGO - Authorities said a desolate corner of San Diego County may be its most violent area. It is so dangerous 10News crews had to put on bulletproof vests before entering the area near Boulevard.
"The violence in this area is so bad that a 12-year-old was raped to death," said Estela De Los Rios of the Center for Social Advocacy.
In the area, authorities said there are pieces of evidence left behind that serve as a grim reminder of the violence happening near the U.S.-Mexico border. More
CHP to Focus on Seatbelt Violators
SACRAMENTO - Buckle up, or prepare to pay up if you’re stopped by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer on Thursday, September 17, 2009. Designated by the CHP as “Vehicle Occupant Restraint Day,” the statewide campaign allows officers on grant-funded overtime, to focus their attention specifically on people who fail to wear a seat belt when riding in a vehicle.
“Seat belts are your first line of defense against injuries or death,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “If you’re not buckled up during a crash, you could be thrown through a window or even crushed by a vehicle.”
More than 30 percent of all vehicle passengers killed statewide in 2007 and 2008 were not buckled up at the time of the collision. More
California Governor Holds Garage Sale on eBay, Craigslist
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that the state's Department of General Services has posted several surplus items - some signed by the Governor - for sale on eBay and Craigslist in preparation for the "Great California Garage Sale."
The idea stemmed from a "conversation" the governor had on Twitter using the #myidea4ca hashtag in which he asked the public for new ideas on the state budget.
"By posting items online, Californians and people from other states and around the world can participate in the Great California Garage Sale," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "This is a win-win for the state and for shoppers. Together we are eliminating waste and providing great deals in this tough economy. I encourage everyone to log on or attend this great event." More
Will Cali pull the plug on flat screen TVs?
California's flat energy demand is a point of much pride, and the rolling blackouts of the heady Enron days a matter of shame.
With that in mind, state regulators are considering pulling the plug on large flat-screen TVs that use exorbitant amounts of electricity (even when off).
The state's energy commission will unveil rules today that would limit manufacturers to selling more efficient models. The rules, if adopted, would mean that about a quarter of the models currently for sale would be pulled from stores.
Televisions account for 10 percent of residential electricity use, and the popularity of large flat-screen models jeopardizes California's long-term energy goals. More
California resort offers $19 'survivor' package
The recession is in full swing, and the travel industry is feeling it as well.
The Rancho Bernardo Inn, in San Diego and ranked #1 by Conde Naste in 2008, is offering a special with rooms for $19 a day. Sounds too good to be true right? Here’s the catch.
For $19 a night, guests get a room with a tent, and that’s about it. All other room amenities have been removed, include bedding, toilet paper, air conditioning, lights, and the regularly included breakfast has been eliminated.
The cool thing about this special is that it actually starts at $219 a night, and the price lowers depending on what the guests are willing to give up. For example, guests can take the regular $219 rate and get it for $199 by giving up breakfast.
That rate will go down to $179 without breakfast or the honor bar. Rate goes down to $159 without heat or air conditioning, and so on, until the rate hits a measly $19. More
California unemployment rate hits 11.9 percent
California's unemployment rate climbed to 11.9 percent in July, the highest number in modern record-keeping.
That's an increase from 11.6 percent in June and significantly higher than the jobless rate of 7.3 percent a year ago, state officials said Friday.
The Employment Development Department said California lost 35,800 jobs last month but noted it was the lowest monthly job loss total since August 2008. The state shed 66,100 jobs in June.
Stephen Levy, senior economist at the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said the decline was a sign the state is edging toward the end of the recession. More
State green power plan will cost consumers billions
Retired schoolteacher Sharon Reid and her husband, Dewitt, a retired Marine major, pay $170 in a typical month ---- and some months more than $230 ---- to cool and light their 2,000-square-foot, tri-level home in Vista.
Without making any changes in lifestyle, their electricity bill is likely to increase by $45 a month on average as California overhauls its power grid and tries to shift the source of one-third of its electricity from fossil fuels to green sources by 2020.
A new state report says California electricity rates will rise about 27 percent by 2020, with close to half the increase triggered by the switch to green energy.
Reid said she understands what the state is trying to do. "I do believe in green energy," she said, but "27 percent is a heck of a lot of money." More
Massive Squid Grabs San Diego Diver Underwater
Ever since the squid started washing up on San Diego beaches over the past week, scuba divers have been heading out to get a closer look. One woman got a much closer look than she wante
A night dive on Saturday lit up the underwater world for diver Shanda Magill -- octopus, sharks, and Humboldt squid -- the kind of sights you see once, and want to see again as soon as possible.
"Went out for another dive the next night, and that's where things kind of turned around," Magill said laughing. She was separated from her dive partners. More
State Prepares To Issue IOUs As Budget Deficit Worsens
California's controller will start paying many of the state's bills with IOUs as soon as Thursday after lawmakers failed to close the state's worsening budget deficit, adding a new measure of indignity to a state sinking deeper into dysfunction.
Lawmakers' failure to act on Tuesday, the end of the fiscal year, also widened California's deficit from what already had been a whopping $24.3 billion -- more than a quarter of its general fund. The growing shortfall can be attributed to the state's highly complex funding formula that boosts school funding each year.
The failure to balance the state's main checkbook and the looming IOUs prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday to declare a fiscal state of emergency. More
The Persian Conquest
The interior decor of Sam Nazarian’s $18.9 million mansion high above the Sunset Strip might be described as nightlife moderne. Glossy stone floors and glass walls are set off by glam touches like a Roy Lichtenstein print—This Must Be the Place, cheekily hung in the bathroom—and a black crystal chandelier. But what’s inside the Nazarian house is secondary to the view: the city of Los Angeles spread like a vast Persian carpet laid at Nazarian’s feet. It is, in more ways than one, a view from the top.
These days Nazarian hardly needs an introduction in Hollywood and Beverly Hills: At 33, he has built an empire that includes trendy nightclubs, an archipelago of restaurants and the flashy SLS Hotel, with further hotels planned for Miami and Las Vegas. His circle, however, extends well beyond the celebutantes courted by his businesses. Nazarian and his family, who like many Iranian Jews left Tehran during the 1979 revolution, are leaders of a powerful Persian Jewish elite in Beverly Hills. One hint of the community’s influence in Los Angeles is a framed commendation on Nazarian’s sitting room wall from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I was one of his first supporters,” explains Nazarian. “We’re very, very close.” More
Class Action Wage and Hour Issues, False Imprisonment Described in California Complaint
SAN DIEGO - Giant retail chain Costco keeps something in its California warehouses that customers don't know about. According to a class action complaint filed today in California Superior Court in San Diego County, it's the company's hourly employees who have been forced to clock out of work and want to go home, but are routinely and regularly prevented from doing so.
Mary Pytelewski, a full-time clerk who's worked nearly a decade in Costco's warehouse in San Marcos, CA, filed the suit today on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated Costco employees.
According to Ms. Pytelewski's legal team, the suit stems from a scheme by Issaquah, Washington-based Costco Wholesale Corporation to deny its California employees compensation and overtime benefits due to them under state law. The heart of the scheme involves locking hourly employees inside each warehouse every night for approximately 15 minutes after they have finished work and are off the clock. During this period, the stores' managers perform closing activities, such as removing jewelry from display cases and emptying cash registers. More
AG Jerry Brown Sues Wells Fargo, Alleges Fraud
California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Thursday accused subsidiaries of Wells Fargo & Co. of fraud in a lawsuit alleging the bank improperly marketed $1.5 billion in risky investments as "safe and liquid as cash."
The lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court accuses Wells Fargo Investments LLC, Wells Fargo Brokerage Services LLC and Wells Fargo Institutional Services LLC of wrongly assuring investors that the investments were safe in deceptive advertising.
The suit is the latest of a flurry of legal actions taken against banks nationwide related to the February 2008 collapse of the $330 billion "auction rate securities" market. More
Thousands attend anti-tax rally in Corona
CORONA ---- Bombastic radio talk show hosts "John and Ken" lit the fuse.
And thousands of Southern California residents provided the "boom," turning the normally laid-back setting of Tom's Farms, a pastoral roadside attraction/farmers market on the outskirts of Corona, into a raucous staging ground for an anti-tax rally on Saturday afternoon.
The rally, a companion piece to the anti-tax KFI AM 640 hosts' live broadcast, featured hundreds of colorful signs, "Don't Tread on Me" flags and life-size effigies of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ripped to pieces by a industrial shredder.
The rally was one of several anti-tax gatherings staged throughout the state Saturday to urge the defeat of five of the six propositions on Tuesday's ballot, a slate of measures that the governor has endorsed as a way to help California close its gaping budget deficit. More
Governor asks: What if pot's legal and taxed?
As California struggles to find cash, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday it's time to study whether to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.
The Republican governor did not support legalization – and the federal government still bans marijuana use – but advocates hailed the fact that Schwarzenegger endorsed studying a once-taboo political subject.
"Well, I think it's not time for (legalization), but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?" More
CHP officer accused of taking sexual bribe for speeding
VISTA ---- A retired Oceanside-based California Highway Patrol officer headed to jail from a Vista courtroom Tuesday, accused of conspiring to get a woman's speeding ticket dismissed in exchange for sex ---- and allegedly charging his agency overtime for the hotel tryst.
Officer Abram Carabajal, 51, of Oceanside, pleaded not guilty to three felony counts ---- perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and accepting a bribe.
"He went into court, committed perjury," prosecutor Jeff Dort said of Carabajal and the accusations he faces. "Her case was then dismissed. They then went directly to the Guesthouse Inn in Oceanside, spent an hour. He received a bribe."
The bribe, Dort said, was sex. More
Mortgage defaults rise but homeowners stay put
More Californians are failing to make their mortgage payments than at any time in the last 20 years, but fewer of them are losing their homes, according to new figures.
The drop in foreclosures follows moratoriums adopted by major banks and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The increase in loan defaults, meanwhile, suggests that rising unemployment and the continuing recession are still claiming fresh victims.
But another factor in the soaring default rate could be that some struggling homeowners are purposely skipping their payments so that they can get their loans refinanced, industry experts say. More
Cali to reduce carbon emissions by...banning black cars?!
In a move that will likely get California's consumers in a huff, impending legislation may soon restrict the paint color options for Golden State residents looking for their next new vehicle. The specific colors that are currently on the chopping block are all dark hues, with the worst offender seemingly the most innocuous color you could think of: Black.
What could California possibly have against these colors, you ask? Apparently, the California Air Resources Board figures that the climate control systems of dark colored cars need to work harder than their lighter siblings – especially after sitting in the sun for a few hours. Anyone living in a hot, sunny climate will tell you that this assumption is accurate, of course. In fact, legislation already exists for buildings that has proven successful at reducing the energy consumption of skyscrapers. More
Pink Friday Takes on a Life of Its Own
In rallies from Sacramento to San Jose, Santa Maria to Simi Valley, thousands of teachers, parents, community members, school administrators and public education supporters joined together Friday to support public education and protest the 26,590 pink slips that have already been issued to California educators. A final number will be available next week.
"The outpouring of enthusiasm and support for our students, educators and schools around the state has been amazing," said David A. Sanchez, president of the 340,000-member California Teachers Association.
Pink Friday was observed on March 13 because that is the state deadline for issuing preliminary layoff notices to teachers.
The number of layoff notices sent this year is more than double the number sent last year. The massive number is a result of the largest single cut to public education in the state's history. More
Museum of Tolerance has intolerant neighbors
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been battling for more than three years to construct a $200 million center in Israel, is facing another emotional building controversy, this one in its own backyard. The proposed Center for Human Dignity in the heart of Jerusalem is opposed by two Palestinian advocacy groups, which claim that the complex would sit atop a historic Muslim cemetery. The legal confrontation has been hanging fire in the Israel Supreme Court for the last 18 months.
Back home, the neighborhood conflict is just beginning, although its roots go back a long way. Foremost at issue is an expansion of the Wiesenthal's famed Museum of Tolerance, which has some neighbors up in arms. Plans call for the addition of a two-story, 45-foot-high building at the museum's southern end, including an indoor cafe and a roof garden on top, taking up almost all the space of the present memorial garden. More
Police to investigate threats to Octo mom
LOS ANGELES – California taxpayers have found themselves held hostage by insane greedy college educated unwed, unemployed mother during a time of budget crisis.
Police said Thursday they will investigate death threats against octuplet mom Nadya Suleman and advise her publicist on how to handle a torrent of other nasty messages that have flooded his office.
Word that the 33-year-old single, unemployed mother is receiving public assistance to care for the 14 children she conceived through in vitro fertilization has stoked furor among many people.
Police Lt. John Romero said officers were meeting with Suleman's publicist Mike Furtney about the flood of angry phone calls and e-mail messages against Suleman, her children and Furtney. More
Fullerton – An estimated crowd of 15,000 people showed up at a tax revolt and recall protest hosted by The John & Ken Show of radio station KFI 640.
The hyperactive John Kobylt and immaculately groomed Ken Chiampou prodded the crowd into chants of "heads on a stick" and "off with their heads" several times during the three hour event, referring to lazy legislators and the lying governor.
Some people brought bloody effigy heads of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and stuck them on the end of a pike, while the crowd joined their hosts in a chant of "heads on a stick."
Several people brought VHS cassettes, DVDs, laser discs, an action hero lunchbox, action figures and other memorabilia from the governor's Hollywood career, whiche were tossed into a pile and smashed with a sledgehammer.
Study to test real-world effects of stun gun use raises safety questions
The rate of sudden deaths increased six-fold in the first year that California law enforcement agencies deployed the use of stun guns, according to a UCSF study. Findings also showed a two-fold increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths during the same time period.
The most widely used brand of stun gun is the Taser, and the team surveyed for outcomes related to the deployment of this device.
While some industry-funded controlled human studies have shown Tasers to cause no harm, this study suggests that their real-world effects pose greater medical risk and more danger than previous reports, said study author Zian H. Tseng, MD. Although the device has been advertised to decrease the number of shooting deaths and officer injuries, study outcomes showed an increase rather than a reduction in the rate of shooting deaths and no change in officer injuries following Taser deployment, he added. More
California bond rating drops lower than any other state's
California's bond rating was downgraded below that of every other state Tuesday by a major Wall Street rating agency, as lawmakers trying to resolve the state's financial problems faced growing resistance from powerful interest groups.
Citing the state's prolonged budget impasse and its nearly empty treasury, Standard & Poor's lowered its rating on $46 billion in general obligation bonds, which investors usually consider one of the safest investments because they are backed by taxpayers.
By reducing California's bonds from an "A-plus" to an "A" rating, the agency declared that it now considers even the debt of Louisiana -- whose credit had been ranked equally with California's -- a more trustworthy investment. Most states are rated "AA" or "AAA." More
Man Sold Daughter For $16K, Beer And Meat
Multiculturalism has arrived in a small California town in a way that has gained a lot of attention.
A California man has been arrested for arranging for his 14-year-old daughter to marry a neighbor in exchange for $16,000, 100 cases of beer and several cases of meat, police said.
Authorities in Greenfield, a farming community on California's central coast, said they learned of the deal after Marcelino de Jesus Martinez, 36, asked them for help getting back his daughter after payment wasn't made.
The deal specifically involved 100 cases of Corona beer, 50 cases of Modelo, six bottles of wine, 50 cases of soft drinks and 50 cases of Gatorade.
Martinez is a member of an indigenous Mexican Trique community. Greenfield police Chief Joe Grebmeier said the case highlights an issue confronting local authorities in that arranged marriages with girls as young as 12 are not uncommon among the Trique. More
Phasing out the wood-burning fireplace
As Southwest Riverside County residents brace for cold winter temperatures and prepare to entertain family members for the holidays, the temptation to fire up that cozy, romantic fireplace is heating up. But the tradition of throwing another log on the fire ---- a wooden one, at least ---- may be on the way out.
That's a troubling thought for many, including longtime resident Annie Borel, whose family homesteaded French Valley northeast of Temecula more than a century ago.
"I saw a sign for free firewood the other day, and thought, 'Gosh, it's not going to be long before they're telling us we can't have fireplaces,'" Borel said.
Indeed, a powerful special district with the task of clearing the air in four smoggy Southern California counties, including Riverside, is going to make builders stop framing tract homes with wood-burning fireplaces. More
Host of new laws greet new year in Cali
There probably will be a lot more expressions of OMG (shorthand for Oh, my God) than LOL (laugh out loud) about a new law regarding text messaging that takes effect Jan. 1. Starting Thursday, all California motorists are banned from text messaging while driving. The new law makes it illegal for anyone to write, send or read a text message while driving. Before the state Legislature approved the measure, text messaging was illegal only for drivers under age 18.
The new year will bring a host of other new laws, including four that address drunken driving. One prohibits anyone convicted of driving under the influence from driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 or above. Anyone with a previous drunken driving conviction who refuses to take a breath test, or has a reading of 0.01 or above, will lose their license on the spot and see their vehicle impounded.
Another law addresses portable global positioning systems. Motorists who install the devices on their windshields are required to place them either in a 7-inch square in the lower corner of the passenger side or a 5-inch square in the windshield's lower left corner of the windshield. More
SoCal Residents Trade Guns for Food
A program to exchange guns for gifts brought in a record number of weapons this year as residents hit hard by the economy look under the bed and in closets to find items to trade for groceries. The annual Gifts for Guns program ended Sunday in Compton, a working class city south of Los Angeles that has long struggled with gun and gang violence.
In a program similar to ones in New York and San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department allows residents to anonymously relinquish firearms in return for $100 gift cards for Ralphs supermarkets, Target department stores or Best Buy electronics stores.
Turning in assault rifles yields double that amount. More
Most Cali elementary schools will fail to meet proficiency requirements by 2014
How well students and schools – from kindergarten through high school – succeed in mastering a curriculum that includes English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, and the social and natural sciences, strongly influences how well the students fare in higher education.
In California, student mastery in ELA and mathematics is measured with the California Standards Tests (CST). To determine how the challenge of mastery is being met, a research team led by UC Riverside's Richard Cardullo examined several years of CST data.
The researchers report in the Sept. 26 issue of Science that mathematical models they used in their analysis predict that nearly all elementary schools in California will fail to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements for proficiency by 2014, the year when all students in the nation need to be proficient in ELA and mathematics, per the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" (NCLB). More
Naked Woman Leads Police Chase Without Headlights
LOS ANGELES, CA - A naked woman suspected in a Pasadena car vandalism was taken into custody Thursday night after leading Pasadena police officers on a wild car chase. Police say the woman was reported vandalizing a car in the 2400 block of Mohawk and jumped into her car when she saw police officers.
The female suspect led police onto the Ventura (134) Freeway, the and the Golden State (5) Freeway, driving at speeds as high as 95 mph without headlights.
The suspect weaved in between cars and blew past big rigs as if they were standing still, helicopter reporter Larry Welk said. More
Bankrupt Calif. City May Be a Harbinger
VALLEJO, Calif. -- When this city of 120,000 declared bankruptcy in May, the extraordinary step appeared to arise from an extraordinary circumstance: Vallejo's payroll largess. Police captains in this blue-collar town north of San Francisco make more than $200,000. The city manager's $338,000 salary is more than that of the vice president or anyone on the Supreme Court.
"I think it's fair to say everybody's here because the wages and benefits are very good," said city Finance Director Bob Stout, with a tight smile.
But as the nation's financial system staggers and recession looms, officials across America's most populous state are nervously eyeing the other side of the equation that brought the City of Vallejo into the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California: tax revenue that sank with the economy while payroll and pension obligations continued their rise. More
Biologist Faces 30-Day Suspension for Kayaking L.A. River
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is threatening major disciplinary action against one of its own scientists because she kayaked the Los Angeles River one weekend as part of a protest against the agency refusal to declare the entire river navigable in fact, thus failing to protect much of the watershed under the Clean Water Act, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Citing internet footage of the event, the Corps charged that her “participation undermined [its] authority”, and proposed a 30-day suspension, a punishment one level below termination.
Heather Wylie, a 4-year biologist with the Regulatory Division of the Corps’ L.A. District, was cited for off-duty kayaking and for circulating a news article via e-mail documenting Clean Water Act enforcement problems. The August 7, 2008 “Notice of Proposed Suspension (30 Days)” is still pending, although Corps officials have told PEER that they will act later this month. More
Sarah Palin effigy hanged from house
An effigy of US Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging by a noose as part of a Halloween display has drawn severe criticism, but local officials said the homeowner was covered by free speech rights.
A mannequin dressed to resemble the Alaska governor, with her trademark beehive hairdo and glasses, was hung by the neck from the eaves of the home in West Hollywood.
On the roof, a mannequin of Republican presidential candidate John McCain protruded from the chimney surrounded in flames, holding his head as he was apparently burned alive. More
San Onofre's new bare necessity: a suit
A battle nearly 40 years in the making is coming to a head at one of Southern California's most iconic beaches, pitting the suits against the people who don't wear any.
Swimsuits, that is.
After decades of looking the other way, officials at San Onofre State Beach in north San Diego County are set to crack down on a clothing-optional stretch of sand where people soak up the sun without fear of tan lines.
Citing ongoing complaints from park visitors and the fear of workplace harassment lawsuits from employees, officials say they will begin citing skinny dippers who refuse to cover up after Labor Day. New large signs warning that nudity is prohibited have recently sprouted up throughout the park, and rangers are telling nude sunbathers that their endless summer is about to end. More
California Senate Proclaims October 4-11 No Drugs Down the Drain Week
Everyday in California, unwanted or expired medicine is disposed of down the toilet and flushed medication ends up in local waterways. As chemical analysis has improved, wastewater treatment agencies now can detect even trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in rivers, bays and oceans that may have impacts to fish and wildlife. As a result, it is now necessary to work with communities across California to educate people about keeping medication out of the toilet and disposed of safely.
To deal with this pollution issue, the California Senate recently proclaimed October 4-11 "No Drugs Down the Drain Week." A coalition of local, regional, state and federal agencies is conducting a one-week statewide effort to remind residents that flushing down the toilet and/or pouring down the sink are not acceptable means of medicine disposal. More
Taco Truck Battle Rages On
Southern California's taco truck war continued to sizzle as county officials asked a judge to reinstate a law he threw out last month that had forced truck operators to move every hour or face the threat of jail.
County officials say the trucks, many of which have become the equivalent of neighborhood restaurants, are a nuisance, parking at the same spot every day and bringing in noise and traffic. Operators respond that they meet the same health standards as restaurants and are being unfairly targeted because of organized political pressure from restaurateurs.
At stake is unfettered access to cheap, to-go Mexican food like carnitas, quesadillas and carne asada tacos that are cooked to order and served from literally thousands of elaborate restaurant-trucks that dot the business streets in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, particularly in largely Hispanic East Los Angeles, where trucks can be found on almost every block. More
Hard water ahead for Cali residents
The California state legislature will almost certainly pass a sweeping water softener ban law very soon, observers say.
The bill, AB 2270, passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee by party line vote yesterday. It is expected to pass the whole Senate as early as next week and move to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. The State Water Resources Control Board told the legislature that bans will not cost state government significant amounts of money. However, the law could cost homeowners untold sums.
"Those in the industry and homeowners need to make sure the governor knows how damaging this law would be," said Peter Censky, executive director of the Water Quality Association. "This drastic bill would do very little good for the environment and cause a lot of problems for homeowners throughout California."
The bill gives unelected water boards the power to decide whether towns can ban softeners. If a town chooses to announce a ban, policing power to enforce it would be necessary. More
Where does all that state money go?
California state government spent $145 billion last fiscal year, $41 billion more than four years ago when Gov. Gray Davis got recalled by voters. With all that new spending -- a whopping 40% increase -- we ought to be in a golden age of government with abundant public services for all.
So why does it seem like the quality and quantity of government is not all that different from 2004? How many of us feel like we are getting 40% more public services, 40% better schools, roads, parks and so on?
Some of it went to cover increases in the cost of living, and state spending naturally grows with the size of the population. But even adjusting for inflation and population growth, state spending is up almost 20% compared with four years ago, a big enough bump that ordinary Californians should be able to notice it. The state's financial statements describe where the money went -- the big gainers were education ($13 billion), transportation ($10 billion) and health ($10 billion) -- but not why these billions don't create even a blip on our day-to-day radar. More
3 SoCal hospitals accused of using homeless for fraud
On a Sunday afternoon two years ago, five homeless people being dropped off on Los Angeles' skid row by an ambulance caught the attention of police officers.
The officers videotaped what they thought was a case of hospitals dumping patients in a section of the city where few would notice or care.
But as investigators began to unravel the incident, they say they found something far different: a massive scheme to defraud taxpayer-funded healthcare programs of millions of dollars by recruiting homeless patients for unnecessary medical services.
The elaborate enterprise churned thousands of indigents through hospitals over the last four years and billed Medicare and Medi-Cal for costly and unjustified medical procedures, federal, state and local investigators said Wednesday. Those involved in the alleged conspiracy "ranged from street-level operatives to the chief executive of a hospital," U.S. Atty. Thomas P. O'Brien said. More
Assembly goes on vacation amid Cali budget deadlock
With the state budget far from resolved, the Assembly resumed its summer vacation Tuesday.
Members of the lower house contemplated two dozen bills before joining their Senate counterparts on holiday. Barring a budget breakthrough, both houses are scheduled to be dark until Aug. 4.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, ramped up his rhetoric over the lack of progress on the state's $101 billion general fund spending plan, which contains a $15.2 billion deficit. The governor admonished the Legislature for not meeting its June 15 constitutional deadline and noted that he has always turned in his spending proposal on time.
"I can only get the horse to the water," Schwarzenegger said, "but I can't make it drink." More
Algebra 1 to be required for all 8th-graders
All California eighth-graders in public school will have to take Algebra 1 beginning in 2011 under a policy approved Wednesday by the state Board of Education in an 8-1 vote.
The board decided to make algebra testing mandatory in the eighth grade over the strong objections of Jack O'Connell, the state's elected schools chief. O'Connell accused the board of demanding high standards while failing to tie them to extra resources needed to fix a shortage of math teachers and prepare thousands of disadvantaged kids for the rigorous class.
"I fear that we're setting our students up for failure," O'Connell said. "I pray that I'm wrong." More
Legislators lust for porn tax
Solving this year's state budget deficit will require some creative solutions. Democrats and Republicans agree on that.
But in an example of just how dysfunctional the state's finances are, take a look at one bill co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston.
The bill, AB 2914, would levy a tax on all services defined as adult entertainment, everything from entry fees at a gentleman's club to blue videos at your corner store.
Dubbed, naturally, a "porn tax," the bill would send revenues that could be used, in vague language, on anything that would address the societal costs of adult entertainment. That could be education, health and human services, environment (Paper used for men's magazines? Air pollution from cars driving to strip clubs? OK, maybe not). More
Lawmaker pushes for expansion of secret license plates
SANTA ANA – Assemblyman Sandre Swanson told the story earlier this month during a public radio show about confidential license plates intended to protect government employees from criminals.
Swanson wants to expand the program, which already shields the home address on record for nearly 1 million cars owned by public employees.
"We've had a code enforcement officer who was killed and his family murdered as a result of his information being obtained through DMV records," Swanson said on AirTalk on KPPC. "and so we've already had tragic examples."
But the Register was unable to find even a single example of a code enforcement officer killed because someone accessed their drivers' records. And neither could the lobbyist supporting Swanson's proposal. An aide to Swanson eventually acknowledged that the anecdote wasn't accurate. More
California Lawmaker Floats Balloon Ban
A California state senate committee Tuesday unanimously approved a ban on helium-filled metallic balloons.
The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena, said metallic balloons are responsible for hundreds of power outages every year when they drift into power lines.
"I don't want to be a party pooper, but these things are causing a lot more damage than people realize," Scott said.
The owner of the Sacramento Balloon Co. couldn't believe the legislature was considering the ban. Steve Rostratter said metallic balloons make up more than half his business.
"There are thousands of jobs in California in the balloon industry," Rostratter said. More
Scientists: Big Quake Likely in Cali
California faces an almost certain risk of being rocked by a strong earthquake by 2037, scientists said in the first statewide temblor forecast.
New calculations reveal there is a 99.7 percent chance a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike in the next 30 years. The odds of such an event are higher in Southern California than Northern California, 97 percent versus 93 percent.
"It basically guarantees it's going to happen," said Ned Field, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena and lead author of the report.
The 1994 Northridge earthquake under Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley was magnitude 6.7. It killed 72 people, injured more than 9,000 and caused $25 billion in damage in the metropolitan area.
The damage created by an earthquake depends greatly on where it hits. A 7.1 quake hit the Mojave Desert in 1999 but caused only a few injuries and no deaths. More
Oakland cops: Mind if we search your house for guns?
OAKLAND _ A six-month pilot program where Oakland police officers would knock on doors and ask permission to search homes for guns got the green light from the City Council's public safety committee Tuesday night.
It goes to the full council Tuesday, when the council will meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.
The consent-to-search program, as it is called, is based closely on a similar effort launched in St. Louis in 1994 and on ongoing programs in Boston and Washington, D.C. The idea is simple: To ask parents for permission to search their homes for weapons their children may be hiding.
Under the program, officers would request permission to search homes for guns. Guns would be taken away, but officers would not pursue prosecution unless the weapon was tied to a crime. More
DWP users asked to pay breast-feeding bill
Sidestepping any potential opposition from its commission, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is shopping for a contractor to run pregnancy and breast-feeding classes for its workers for up to $50,000 a year.
Because the contract for "lactation specialist services" is less than $150,000, General Manager H. David Nahai can award it without seeking approval from the DWP board once the proposals are opened March 7.
But board member Nick Patsaouras criticized Nahai on Thursday for not bringing the controversial contract to commissioners for discussion.
"In general, I respect the general manager has the authority (to award contracts) under $150,000, but in this case some board members in the past expressed objections and so it should come before the board," he said.
Patsouras said it's inappropriate to continue the lactation program at a time when the utility wants to raise electric rates by 9 percent over three years and water rates by 6 percent over two years. More
Cops owe $170,000 from gun buyback
OAKLAND — When the lines at Saturday's three gun exchange locations snaked around several city blocks and the money ran out, Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker had a choice to make: Turn people and their guns away, or give them vouchers for a future payday.
Tucker opted for the IOUs. As a result more than 1,000 weapons were turned in — many by gun dealers — and the final tally was significantly higher than the 300 guns organizers expected to collect. State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata raised about $80,000 from private donors, but the cash-strapped Police Department is on the hook for at least $170,000.
Just where the department will come up with that much cash is anyone's guess. "OPD is picking up the rest," said police spokesman Roland Holmgren. "Where will we get it? That's a good question. I don't think we've really identified that yet." More
Voting - California Style
With a potentially close Presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in California it is important that independent voters—those who are not registered in a political party—know that they can vote in the Democratic primary and how they can do so.
If you are a registered Democrat, it’s easy—you will get a Democratic ballot to vote.
If you are an Independent (Not Registered with a Party), you can vote in the Democratic Primary for President—but you have to ask for a Democratic ballot—otherwise, all you get is one that lists the ballot propositions.
If you have requested a vote by mail ballot, and have not requested a Democratic ballot, bring your ballot to the polling place on election day, tell the poll worker that you want a Democratic ballot instead, surrender your old one to the poll worker, and get and vote your Democratic presidential primary ballot. More
Californians Approve Indian Gaming Increase
Los Angeles - Californians marked their ballots not only for their favorite presidential candidates Tuesday, but they also voted to allow Indian tribes to expand gambling in the state – a reversal of public sentiment toward that idea just a few months ago.
Voter approval of four citizen initiatives to expand Indian gambling operations came after months of TV ad wars and will result in the addition of enough new slot machines in California to equal the number at Las Vegas's top 10 casinos.
On another ballot measure calling for an adjustment in term limits for elected politicians, Californians refused to budge from their long-standing position that state legislators, in particular, need to be on a short leash. They rejected it 51 to 49 percent.
The huge spending on ads – $150 million on each side in the gambling propositions and another $7 million on the term-limits measure – showed the power of the purse to influence elections.. More
Kali Man Saves Year's Worth of Trash
BERKELEY, Calif. - Ari Derfel leads a trashy life. He just wants to remind everyone else that they do, too.
The 35-year-old Berkeley caterer said he has saved every piece of trash he has generated over the past year to see how much garbage one person creates.
The experiment began as a way to examine his own consumption habits, Derfel said, but grew into a statement about consumerism and the environment. More
Suit Over Socks Costs School $95,000
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Officials in a Northern California school district might not think Tiggers are such wonderful things after agreeing to pay $95,000 in lawyers' fees to five families who sued the school over its dress code.
The parents went to court after a student was disciplined for wearing socks with the "Winnie the Pooh" cartoon character Tigger on the first day of school last year.
The district's superintendent said Thursday that the settlement money is for the plaintiffs' lawyers; the district is also on the hook to pay the lawyers it hired. More
Glendale pair may find pruning trees is costly
GLENDALE, CA - Taking clippers to a tree can be costly in Glendale, where a couple has been fined $347,600 for pruning 13 trees on and around their property.
City officials, though, say any attempt to collect the fine is on hold and they have no intention of charging that much.
It's just a matter of regulations not being properly tailored to fit the offense, officials said.
"None of us are going to put that kind of fine on the people," said City Councilman Dave Weaver.
Within the next couple of months, the City Council is expected to discuss the ordinance on which the fine was based - it's calculated based on a formula - and examine how it could be changed. More
Who's the red-light violator?
Dozens of cities across California still pay red-light camera vendors based on the revenue their tickets generate, even though such contracts have been outlawed by the Legislature and ruled illegal in Orange County court.
The details are technical and still contested but the spirit of the law is clear: Camera vendors shouldn't have a financial incentive to target motorists unfairly.
In Orange County, Laguna Woods has a contract that appears to be in violation of the law. Costa Mesa's contract doesn't meet the test of current law either, but because the contract was signed in 2003, before the law changed, it is not required to conform. City officials say they want to renegotiate to make their contract meet current law but haven't been able to reach agreement with their vendor. More
California’s legislature approves 1000 new laws annually
IN CALIFORNIA, IT BECAME ILLEGAL this year to tie up your dog, whether in a public or private place, for more than three hours. There’s also a new law barring Californians from removing more than 25 freebie newspapers from the stands. And for the inner boozer in all of us, California law now allows stores that sell alcohol to hand out free beer — as long as no more than eight ounces per person is served per day.
Those and dozens of other micro-laws were approved by the 2006 legislature and signed by the Governator last fall, though few Californians ever got the word. And now, amid widespread criticism over their failure to achieve much of merit, Sacramento’s 120 legislators have again sent to Schwarzenegger reams of new laws that illustrate their flair for high volume — and minutiae.
This year, in fact, the legislature accomplished so little — failing to address major issues like prison overcrowding or the state’s inadequate water infrastructure in the face of booming growth — that Schwarzenegger asked lawmakers back from their annual September break and into a special session to deal with health care reform, which foundered amid endless partisan sniping. More
Schwarzenegger approves spraying of biological agent
On September 9th, 2007 several planes hired by the State of California Food and Agricultural Department (CDFA) flying at an altitude of approximately 500ft sprayed the untested biochemical, CheckMate®OLR-F, on over 30,000 citizens in Monterey and other surrounding cities in California. This occurred without the permission of the citizens. The spraying continued for three nights from approximately 8pm to 5am. About 1,500 pounds of biochemical were dumped on the cities. Many citizens did not even know what was happening when the planes were buzzing overhead.
An 11 month old child nearly died from breathing difficulties. A six year old child developed asthma as a result of the aerial spraying. Over one hundred people signed affidavits stating that they got sick from the spraying. Hundreds of people had symptoms like; shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, burning lungs, nausea, and muscle aches.
The excuse for aerial spraying is not a deadly disease carrying mosquito, but a moth whose larva may eat some leaves of some plants; called the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM). The CDFA considers the moth an invasive species since it is from Australia. More
San Francisco Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Effect
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Starting Tuesday, San Francisco shoppers will have one less choice in the checkout line. The city’s plastic bag ban goes into effect tomorrow, forbidding the use of traditional plastic bags by large grocery stores.
Paper and biodegradable sacks can still be handed out, but officials are encouraging shoppers to bring their own. "We really are trying to get the message home that what we really want you to do is bring your own bag,” said Alex Dimitriew of San Francisco's Department of the Environment. More
Schwarzenegger says marijuana is not a drug
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says marijuana is not a drug, a British magazine reported. But his spokesman said the governor was joking.
Schwarzenegger told the British edition of GQ magazine that he had not taken drugs, even though the former bodybuilder and Hollywood star has acknowledged using marijuana in the 1970s and was shown smoking a joint in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron."
"That is not a drug. It's a leaf," Schwarzenegger told GQ. "My drug was pumping iron, trust me."
Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said the governor made the comments in a lighthearted context, noting his interviewer was Piers Morgan, one of the judges on "America's Got Talent." Morgan is a former British newspaper editor. More
Fabian Nuñez travels the world like a high-roller
As leader of the California Assembly, Speaker Fabian Nuñez has traveled the world in luxury, paying with campaign funds for visits to some of the finest hotels and restaurants and for purchases at high-end retailers such as Louis Vuitton in Paris.
It is not clear how these activities have related to legislative business, as state law requires, because the Los Angeles Democrat refuses to provide details on tens of thousands of dollars in such expenditures.
The spending, listed in mandatory filings with the state, includes $47,412 on United, Lufthansa and Air France airlines this year; $8,745 at the exclusive Hotel Arts in Barcelona, Spain; $5,149 for a "meeting" at Cave L'Avant Garde, a wine seller in the Bordeaux region of France; a total of $2,562 for two "office expenses" at Vuitton, two years apart; and $1,795 for a "meeting" at Le Grand Colbert, a venerable Parisian restaurant. More
Schwarzenegger Terminates Teen Tech Use While Driving
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 33 by Senator Joe Simitian which bans teenage drivers from using all electronic devices -- such as cell phones, pagers and laptops -- while behind the wheel.
"The simple fact is that teenage drivers are more easily distracted. They are young, inexperienced and have a slower reaction time. We want to eliminate any extra distractions so they can focus on paying attention to the road and being good drivers," said Schwarzenegger.
According to the California Highway Patrol, cell phone use is a leading cause of distracted-driver accidents in California. A study conducted by Ford Motor Company revealed that teenage drivers are four times more distracted than adult drivers by cell phone use. More
Harvesting the Secret Gardens
An unprecedented collaboration among federal, state, and local agencies began a well-publicized blitz campaign in northern California’s Shasta County to root out illegal marijuana gardens hidden in national parks and forests – a phenomenon that occurs statewide and is partly the result of stepped-up eradication efforts and tighter border security.
At a news conference in Redding, officials involved in what is known as Operation Alesia trumpeted the successes of the three-tiered campaign, which involves at least 400 people from Shasta County law enforcement, the National Guard, and 15 other agencies. During the conference, Director of National Drug Control Policy John P. Walters described marijuana growing on public land as a threat to public safety and the environment, and referred to growers as “violent criminal terrorists.”
Only 20 percent of gardens on public lands are found and eradicated. Following the eradication of a garden, National Forest Service personnel remove irrigation piping, clean up contaminants and trash, take water and soil samples, and replant native vegetation to avoid soil erosion – a restoration process that cost $11,000 per acre.
“It’s like ‘Whac-A-Mole,’” says Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s biggest legalization advocacy group. “They will chase them out of one area, and they will turn up somewhere else.” More
Get a traffic ticket, your personal data goes to Mexico
In California, a traffic ticket has enough personal data for identity thieves to build a very comprehensive profile. There is name, address, make, model and license number of vehicle, name of insurance company and policy number, and other details to be found.
Ignoring this peril, several municipalities have contracted data entry from tickets to a company that sends them to Mexico for processing to the lowest bidder.
In response to public outcry, Orange County's Superior Court is halting the processing of traffic tickets in Nogales, Mexico.
Court officials amended the contract with the company that handles the tickets, Cal Coast Data Entry. Cal Coast will now process all of the court's tickets at its Cerritos and Phoenix locations.
"(The change) certainly wasn't because we lacked confidence in the contractor," said Chelle Uecker, assistant chief executive officer of the Superior Court of Orange County. "For us, it's the public's confidence – that's paramount to us."
The brouhaha erupted when KFI radio's "John & Ken Show" attacked the outsourcing and urged listeners to complain. Hundreds called and e-mailed the court and county supervisors.
Uecker said that critics had two primary concerns – security of the personal information once it crossed the border and the possible loss of jobs to Mexico. Uecker reiterated that the court felt comfortable with the security issue. More
State of California's Property Stealing Operation
Nearly 15 years ago, the state of California seized about $25,000 worth of stock that Richard Valdes had set aside and forgotten about.
He's been fighting to get it back almost ever since.
Valdes' stock was in an escrow account that the state declared dormant. But no one from the government tried to contact him before the shares were taken and sold. Valdes said he was effectively robbed of stock that would now be worth at least $100,000.
"It's unbelievable to me that they can destroy records and sell your property without notifying you," Valdes, 71, said. "I've lived in the same Newport Beach area for 50 years. It's very easy to get ahold of me."
Valdes is one of millions of people who have seen their financial accounts and safe-deposit boxes drained under the state's "unclaimed property" law, which generates about $400 million in annual revenue for Sacramento, according to the state controller's office. More
Beyond first class: Arnold travels, Cali pays
No one would be surprised to learn that Arnold Schwarzenegger travels in high style to international destinations like China and Israel in his capacity as governor of California. He's one of the planet's most famous men, and if he wants a private jet, fine.
But those of us who tend to fly coach were shocked to learn that Schwarzenegger, as rich as he is, doesn't pay his own way on private jets when going overseas the way he does when traveling in state. As it turns out, taxpayers are indirectly subsidizing his foreign flights and luxury hotel stays through a convoluted reimbursement strategy involving a secretive foundation, according to Thursday's Los Angeles Times.
In effect, every Californian who pays taxes is helping to underwrite the movie star lifestyle of a public servant. More
Living Large with Don Perata
State Senate boss Don Perata throws impressive parties, and this one was a doozy. The guests, some of Perata's best donors among them, feasted on buttery Dungeness crab and sipped California Chardonnay. Then they settled into their plush luxury box seats to watch the Oakland Raiders play the New York Jets in a game with playoff implications.
It was mid-December 2000, and the state senator had just dropped $43,600 on an oversize luxury suite at the Oakland Coliseum for a single afternoon of festivities. At the time he said he was trying to convince East Bay business leaders to buy suites of their own. But like his other ideas involving the Raiders, this one misfired. Team officials later said the bash produced zero luxury box sales.
Perata paid for the box, and the bash, from the treasury of one of his political campaigns. Since the state senator often transfers cash from one campaign to another, it is difficult to determine its exact origin, but public records suggest that most of it came from the Three Rs, a fund-raising committee Perata formed with then-Mayor Jerry Brown a year earlier to improve Oakland schools. The same month as the Raiders party, Perata transferred the remaining $32,668 from the Three Rs into his main Senate account and paid for the luxury box. In other words, money raised to help Oakland schoolchildren likely was spent on crab, wine, and football for a bunch of rich people. More
State senator rear-ends car while talking on cellphone
In a clear case of "do what I say, not what I do", State Sen. Carole Migden has rear-ended a car and injured a Vallejo woman. Migden was talking on a cell phone while driving through Solano County.
Migden last year voted for a new law that takes effect in July 2008 that will impose a minimum fine of $20 for anyone caught using a cell phone while driving without a headset, ear bud or other technology that frees both hands.
Migden, D-San Francisco, was driving her new state-issued 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV at 10:40 a.m. on eastbound Highway 12 at Beck Avenue when she rear-ended Ellen Butawan, 31, of Vallejo, California Highway Patrol Officer Marvin Williford said.
Migden, 58, accepted blame Friday for the accident. More
Cali Teachers dropping out of school
Stephan Goyne entered teaching as a "fight the good fight" kind of guy, taking a job in East Oakland right out of college.
"I come from a family of teachers. It wasn't even a question of whether to do that," Goyne said. "The question was whether to do elementary, middle or high school."
But after six years in the trenches -- bumped from campus to campus, forbidden from organizing field trips and ordered to teach math only after lunch -- Goyne left teaching.
Teachers stifled by bureaucracy, faced with poor conditions and blocked from making decisions in their own classrooms are leaving the profession in droves, according to a new study released Thursday by Cal State University's Teacher Quality Institute. More
"Light Bulb Lloyd" wants to ban incandescent bulbs
A state legislator thinks it's time for California to retire the more-than-a-century-old incandescent light bulb technology and replace it with its cooler, energy-sipping, squiggly compact and toxic fluorescent counterpart.
A bill by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys (Los Angeles County), would make the Golden State the first to make it illegal to sell incandescent light bulbs. Specifically, the legislation, which is set to be formally submitted in the Assembly in the next few days, would ban the old-fashioned bulbs between 25 watts and 150 watts by 2012.
But forcing such a change by 2012 is not only unfair, but technically difficult, a representative of one of the largest light bulb manufacturers said.
"It may not be rocket science, but it actually comes pretty close when it comes to making lighting products that are acceptable and safe," said Earl Jones, a senior counsel for GE's consumer and industrial division. "There are technology challenges to get them done by 2012." More
Schwarzenegger Plans to Insure Most Californians
Los Angeles , CA - A sweeping plan by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to guarantee health insurance for all Californians - including children of illegal immigrants - is being characterized both as a bold model for improving healthcare access and as a costly government intrusion that will hurt the state's economy.
Arguments for and against near-universal healthcare have already been fought out in the few other states that have moved ahead with health-insurance reforms, namely Massachusetts and Vermont. But the sheer numbers involved in Governor Schwarzenegger's proposal - a $12 billion price tag and coverage for 6.5 million people who currently don't have health insurance - are guaranteed to raise the stakes as the California legislature considers whether to approve it.
Among the ranks of the uninsured are about 763,000 children. Of the plan's overall cost, about $400 million would be spent on those minors, no matter what their immigration status is.
It should be noted that one Austrian embarked on an ambitious program of social services for the people of his nation-state over 70 years ago, and it ended with Jews being thrown into ovens. More
Farming, California Style
Pot farmers worked undetected for two to three years in the shadow of homes and hikers, nurturing plants that drooped under the weight of pungent marijuana buds, authorities who cleared out a record haul in Mission Viejo said Thursday.
Whoever was tending to the thriving pot farm at O'Neill Regional Park – likely underlings for a group or criminal cartel, authorities say – had showered their crops with love.
Because some plants had grown to 15 feet and were poking through a canopy of oak trees, sheriff's deputies on routine helicopter patrol late Tuesday could spot them – and then follow a mile-long, serpentine irrigation system that led to seven separate farms and three camps. More
The Wannabe Governor
Democrats and Republicans play this game in which they concede a position to the other party and run a non campaign against the candidate they conceded to.
A memorable example of this was in 1996 and the Republicans decided to concede the White House to Bill Clinton, so they put up Bob Dole to schlepp around the country and do everything but campaign for office.
This year the Democrats decided to concede the California Governor's race to Arnold Schwarzenegger, so they put up a non candidate named Phil Angelides. Mr. Angelides major claim to fame is that he bears a close resemblence to actor Herbert Anderson, who portrayed the father of the TV character Dennis the Menace.
So far Angelides has run an uninspiring campaign, offering no tangible plan or program with which to govern this populous state. It is unlikely that even a well orchestrated smear campaign by "Baghdad Bob" Mulholland will do anything to nudge Angelides into the governor's mansion.
"Baghdad Bob" Mulholland unleashed
There is a foul stench in California politics. It is likely from a Democratic Party operative known as Bob "Baghdad Bob" Mulholland.
If there is a rumor being pumped into circulation about Democratic Party enemies, then the more odious it is, the more likely that Baghdad Bob is skulking around in the background spewing forth the stench.
Mulholland started to show up on the media radar in 1992 after exposing how Republican Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn visted a strip joint in Hollywood.
But his sleaze turned to menace in the campaign to smear Arnold Schwarzenegger during his run for governor. Mulholland warned Schwarzenegger that "real bullets" will be coming his way during his campaign to be governor.
"Schwarzenegger is going to find out, that unlike a Hollywood movie set, the bullets coming at him in this campaign are going to be real bullets and he is going to have to respond to them," warned Mulholland in an interview with a camera crew from ABC News.
Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver was very concerned about Arnold's safety after this comment by Baghdad Bob, as her family has a history with assassination.
As the 2006 campaign ramps up, if some odious "puke bomb" is thrown at the last minute to try to knock a few points off of Democratic Party opponents, then take a very close look at the source. Baghdad Bob will surely be lurking nearby.
Gray Davis, John Mark Karr not related
Los Angeles, CA - A spokeswoman for former California governor Gray Davis has issued a statement in which she says he is not related to Jonbenet Ramsey killer John Mark Karr.
"I know that there is a strong resemblence, and they are both very unusually looking men, but there is no familial relationship between the two", said spokeswoman Sandy Allenbricker.
"Mr. Davis wanted to be proactive and quiet the whispering campaign linking him with the accused killer, so I reiterate, there is no familial relationship between Gray Davis and John Mark Karr."
Davis was the first governor in California history to be recalled. Since leaving public office, Davis has been working with the law firm of Loeb & Loeb.
'Meathead Tax' goes down in election
The controversial Proposition 82 "Meathead Tax" was turned down by voters in the Tuesday primary elections.
Named after its proponent, Rob Reiner, who was a character in the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, the tax was to have funded state run preschools.
The measure was voted down with 61% of voters deciding against it.
The proposition has been plagued by scandal, with Reiner coming under scrutiny for his keeping his job with the state First Five Commission while at the same time campaigning for a proposition which would fund state-run preschools.
The attention caused Reiner to resign from his position with the First Five Commission on March 29, 2006. An audit of the commission's funds will be conducted in the face of accusations of misuse of state money for the political campaign for his proposition. Other election results
California students: Stupid or poorly educated?
A few decades ago schools in California provided a world class education.
That is different now, with many students passing through grades K-12 and not even attaining a ninth grade education.
This sad truth has been uncovered with the implementation of exit exams which need to be passed in order to graduate from high school. Several parents filed a lawsuit to eliminate the exit exam, claiming it was so hard that their children were not able to pass.
But how hard was it? Students have multiple guess questions with four possible answers. 60 percent correct answers will pass the English portion, while 55 percent correct will pass the math. So what amounts to a 'D' grade in math and English at the ninth grade level is required to pass the 12th grade and graduate. But this it still to hard for ten percent of students. More
Mark Leno - back with more fun and games
Taking a break from making California a cozy place for child molesters, Mark Leno, representing the 13th Assembly district of California, has decided that unlicensed drivers who kill or maim people deserve a break.
For four years, Russell and Judy Hawthorne worked tirelessly for legislation in the hope that something positive would result from their son's death. But the state Assembly's Public Safety Committee recently voted down AB2808. .
AB2808 proposed lengthening jail times for people who kill or injure someone while driving without a license. Currently, driving without a license is only a misdemeanor offense. The esteemed Mr. Leno is one of the bill's opponents. More
Welcome to Mexifornia
This image of a Mexican national flag flown above an upside-down U.S. flag was taken on 27 March 2006 at Montebello High School (MHS) in California during a student protest over immigration reform.
According to news reports, the flag incident was prompted and implemented not by MHS students, but by a large group of students from neighboring schools:
The incident took place about noon Monday, when a group of about 1,000 students from the El Rancho and Whittier Union High school districts marched through Pico Rivera to Montebello High, where students had walked out of classes in the previous week to protest proposed immigration reform legislation.
By the time they reached Montebello High, the campus was on lockdown, district officials said.
That's when the protesters took to the flagpole, added the Mexican flag and turned the U.S. flag upside down. The school's California flag was stolen in the process, [Assistant Superintendent Robert] Henke said. More
Oceanside, California - In the wake of last week's immigration-reform protests, one school district is taking drastic measures, banning all symbols of patriotism, both U.S. and Mexican.
Beginning Monday, the Oceanside Unified School District is banning all flags and patriotic clothing. According to school officials, some students are using the garments and flags to taunt classmates.
School officials in Oceanside now say that flags -- whether they are U.S. or Mexican or any other country's -- have now become a divider on campuses, saying that some students are using them to taunt other students. More
A mob scene unfolded at Oceanside High School on Mission Avenue Wednesday morning when about 200 students tried to leave campus, only to be blocked by police officers toting pepper-spray pellet guns and wearing riot gear.
The scene at the campus subsided as school let out this afternoon and protesting students headed for the Oceanside Bandshell at the beach. Three boys have been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly throwing chunks of concrete at officers during the incident at the school.
Tensions arose at the school just before noon, when several hundred students tried to leave campus in protest of proposed immigration policies.
Officers shot pepper-spray-filled pellets at the ground as students shook a locked fence surrounding the school. The students were chanting, "One people united will never be divided."
After about an hour of tense standoffs, about 100 students were allowed to walk to the Oceanside Pier in protest while others were locked down in classrooms. More
Still a Meathead
Rob Reiner has come full circle. He first came to fame as a comedic actor with a role as "Meathead" Michael Stivic in the sitcom All In The Family.
Later on he directed several so called romantic comedies (essentially chick porn) which attracted a decent number of viewers.
Now he has gotten involved in politics, trying to do something "for the children" and has shown that he is once again a real meathead.
Reiner has served in recent years as the head of the First 5 California Children and Families Commission, a state group that provides services to young children. It is allocated about $114 million a year from a 1998 voter proposition authorizing a 50-cent tax on cigarettes that he promoted and has raised $4 billion for early childhood development and health care.
The First 5 panel was created by the ballot measure to administer 20% of the tobacco tax money. County commissions oversee the rest. Reiner has headed the First 5 commission since it was formed in 1999.
Reiner's First 5 Children and Families Commission spent $23 million from November to January on TV and radio ads touting the benefits of preschool. At the time, Reiner also was leading a drive to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would tax the wealthy to provide free preschool for 4-year-olds. The proposal qualified for the June 6 statewide ballot as Proposition 82.
So what you are looking at, is Reiner has had control of nearly a billion
dollars of taxpayer money, and had used $23 million of it as seed money
to get an initiative on the ballot to get even more funds, instead of
providing services that the original initiative was sold to do. More
California "Pervert Caucus" give sex offenders a break
While many states are passing tougher laws to deal with sex offenders, particularly offenses against children, California has legislators who wants to let them get off easy.
Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Jackie Goldberg and Lloyd Levine, both Los Angeles area Democrats, have opposed attempts to impose longer sentences on sex offenders, instead preferring to release them in the communities of the state to see what happens.
Now, in an election year, Leno and many Democrats tout his Assembly Bill 50 as the best way to increase penalties on molesters. Republicans, angry about Sacramento foot-dragging, are touting a much tougher November ballot measure, Jessica's Law.
Early on, AB50 was filled with loopholes that would make your skin crawl. For instance, Leno provided an "exemption" from felony charges if a suspect was caught with less than 100 pieces of child pornography. In a creepy all-time low, Assembly Democrats voted for Leno's plan to go soft on child porn. More
Governor Arnold performs bad motorcycle stunt
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took a day off from promoting his massive state spending spree to go on a motorcycle ride with his son, and it went very wrong after he was involved in a motorcycle crash near his home in Brentwood on Sunday afternoon.
The movie star-turned-California Governor was out riding on his Harley Davidson bike with his 12-year-old son Patrick in the sidecar when he collided with a car reversing from a driveway.
Schwarzenegger was taken to St John's Hospital in Santa Monica where he received 15 stitches in his lower lip. Patrick was also treated for cuts and bruises. More
During Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's tour to promote his failed ballot propositions, he was shadowed at times by Warren Beatty and Beatty's wife, Annette Bening. Some pundits think Beatty has a crossover political future. Beatty's onscreen political story was done in 1998 with his Bulworth, a political satire about a liberal California senator forced to resort to the right-wing politics of the day to retain his seat. Whether he can become articulate enough to string unscripted senetences together remains to be seen. This hilarious clip, a bit edited, has him rambling on while being interviewed by a radio station reporter. He comes across as sometimes condescending, and a bit of a smartass. Listen
colleges stick it to Americans from other states,
If you come to California to attend state college, even from just over the state line, you will pay about three times the tuition that someone from in state will pay. But if you come to California from outside the USA, and do so illegally, you get your schooling at the lower rate with the taxpayer picking up the rest of the tab. If you can benefit from this, you owe a dept of gratitude to former governor Gray Davis, who ran a full time operation whoring out the state treasury to anyone who would come into his office bringing financial tribute.
Now this policy is under attack from lawsuits filed recently, alleging it is a violation of federal law. More
Arnold sells out to Agribusiness, compromises on child nutrition
What started as a bill which appropriated $18.2 million for a fresh-fruit breakfast program for low-income students, has morphed into something very different. The bill, unceremoniously re-referred to the Agriculture Committee, had reached the floor with its 12 references to “fresh” fruit and vegetables eliminated and replaced by a dozen references to “nutritious” fruit and vegetables. Lobbyists for the canning industry and the governor’s people, working discreetly behind the scenes, insisted on including canned fruit, which is often heavily adulterated with sugar, under the scope of the bill. More
Dude, Where's my Car?
30,000 state cars have gone missing in California, including half of the CHP units.
Cars and trucks, including fire rigs, prison vehicles and others in the state fleet have been lost by sloppy accounting techniques and mismanagement, as uncovered in a recent audit. More
smog check program was designed in 1982 to identify cars that were running
poorly and adding greatly to smog production. In 1995 the program was
revamped, the so-called Smog II, and was supposed to more accurately
identify pollutor. It failed miserably, and made a typical smog check
cost hundreds and require two or more visits. Despite this, no state
official has been fired. More
Give me your tired, especially your poor...
Despite false reassurances that they are only taking jobs that Americans rufuse to do, new INS guidelines permit immigrants and their children to use certain non-cash benefits and special purpose cash benefits without affecting their immigration status. More
Illegal Alien Lobby pushes for 'Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses' Bill
Faced with overwhelming public opposition and the passage of the federal REAL ID Act, State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) has resorted to a watered down version of his perennial legislation to grant official state identity documents to illegal aliens. More
If 'Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses' bill fails, then buy a license
Even if State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) fails to get his bill to grant official state identity documents to illegal aliens, they still have an option. Buy a licence from the friendly neighborhood DMV. More
Minutemen to reverse Illegal alien tide
The Minutemen, who last month stirred up the illegal immigration issue by exposing the porous nature of our U.S.-Mexican border, are now taking their fight against illegal immigration one step further. This month they will begin working at several area farms and picking their crops of lemons, strawberries and avocados to steal back the jobs that illegal immigrants have stolen from Americans. Radio talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, "John and Ken" have endorsed this project and plan to do a live broadcast from a strawberry field in Campo, California.